Following the conclusion of the 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum Austrian Open on Sunday 17th November, the players are now confirmed for the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals to be staged in Zhengzhou, China from Thursday 12th to Sunday 15th December.
A prize fund in excess of US$ 1,000,000, a total of 16 players will compete in each of the men’s singles and women’s singles events. In each of the men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles competitions, it is eight pairs. In the mixed doubles, there is the added incentive of Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games spots available to the four semi-finalists. Being a qualifying event for Tokyo 2020, only one pair per national association is permitted.
So, who are the players that have booked their tickets for Zhengzhou?
Men’s Singles: Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong head list on home soil
China’s Xu Xin (2,044 points) and Fan Zhendong (1,507 points) ended the year in first and second places in the ITTF World Tour men’s singles standings. Xu Xin won in Japan, Korea and Australia, while Fan Zhendong succeeded in Germany and Austria. Both are former winners at the Grand Finals: Xu Xin won in 2012 in Hangzhou and in 2013 in Dubai; Fan Zhendong in 2017 in Astana.
Next in line are two more world-class athletes from China, Lin Gaoyuan (1,475 points) and five-times Grand Finals champion, Ma Long (1,425 points). This year Ma Long won in Qatar and China; Lin Gaoyuan in Hungary and Hong Kong.
Sitting in fifth place is the defending Grand Finals champion, Tomokazu Harimoto (930 points). The 16-year-old Japanese star, who stole the show last year in Incheon, succeeded in Bulgaria.
Following are two other teenagers in Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju (866 points) and China’s Wang Chuqin (819). Highly impressive throughout 2019, Lin and Wang celebrated gold at the Czech and Swedish Opens respectively, their first-ever men’s singles titles on the ITTF World Tour.
Completing the top 10 male representatives in Zhengzhou are China’s Liang Jingkun (773 points), Brazil’s Hugo Calderano (619 points) and Germany’s Timo Boll (544 points), the winner in 2005 in Fuzhou. Boll’s teammates Dimitrij Ovtcharov (512 points) and Patrick Franziska (496 points) are next in line, followed by China’s Zhao Zihao (489 points), Sweden’s Mattias Falck (438 points) and Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik (404 points). Japan’s Jun Mizutani (402 points), a Grand Finals champion in 2010 in Seoul and in 2014 in Bangkok, completes the top 16 names.
Women’s Singles: Teenagers occupy prime positions
Both 19 years young, China’s Sun Yingsha (1,882 points) and Japan’s Mima Ito (1,685 points) ended the year in the respective top two places. Sun Yingsha won in Japan, Australia and Germany, while Ito secured gold in Austria after being the silver medallist in Germany, Sweden and Hong Kong.
Completing the top five positions are world no.1 Chen Meng (1,600 points), Wang Manyu (1,182 points) and Chen Xingtong (880 points). Chen Meng is seeking a third straight Grand Finals title, having succeeded in 2018 in Incheon and also in 2017 in Astana; impressively this year she prevailed in Hungary, China, Korea and Sweden. Meanwhile, Wang struck gold in Qatar and Chen Xingtong enjoyed back-to-back summer successes in Bulgaria and Czech Republic.
Additionally, from China, Liu Shiwen, the reigning World champion (835 points), Ding Ning, the Olympic champion, alongside Zhu Yuling (714 points) and He Zhuojia (438 points) all finished in qualifying positions. Notably, Liu Shiwen has won the women’s singles title at the Grand Finals on three occasions, commencing in 2011 in London, always beating Ding Ning in the final. Later Ding Ning won in 2015 in Lisbon and Zhu Yuling the following year in Doha. He Zhuojia was runner-up last year in Incheon.
Joining Mima Ito from Japan will be Miu Hirano (636 points), Kasumi Ishikawa (574 points) and Hitomi Sato (387 points). Singapore’s Feng Tianwei (504 points), Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching (395 points) and China’s Qian Tianyi (364 points), the 2018 World Junior champion, complete the list. Feng Tianwei and Kasumi Ishikawa are both former Grand Finals champions, having won in 2010 in Seoul and in 2014 in Bangkok respectively.
Mixed Doubles: Defending champions eye repeat success
2018 Grand Finals champions, Hong Kong China’s Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem celebrated gold in Australia and Korea this year to finish top of the mixed doubles standings (877 points).
Lin-Yun Ju and Cheng I-Ching concluded matters in second place (857 points), ahead of Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen, the reigning World and Asian champions. The Chinese duo won in Hungary, Qatar and Sweden; in fact, their only defeat of the year came in the final in Korea by Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem.
Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito (676 points) closely followed in fourth place, ending the year ahead of Korea Republic’s Cho Daeseong and Shin Yubin (338 points).
Men’s Doubles: Can Koreans continue trend?
Last year it was Korea Republic’s Jang Woojin and Lim Jonghoon to celebrate men’s doubles gold on home soil in Incheon. This time, compatriots Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu are aspiring to Grand Finals glory as top seeds in Zhengzhou (900 points) after striking gold in Australia and Bulgaria. The formidable pair won the Grand Finals in 2016 in Doha.
China’s Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong, successful this year in Japan, Korea and Sweden, secure second position (775 points). Gold medallists in China, Germany’s Timo Boll and Patrick Franziska finished in fourth place (563 points), behind China’s Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan (694 points), the winners this year at the Asian Championships as well as on the ITTF World Tour in Hong Kong. Hong Kong China’s Wong Chun Ting and Ho Kwan Kit, the runners up one year ago at the Grand Finals in Incheon, ended their campaign in fifth place (451 points).
Women’s Doubles: Japanese duo means business
Notably, in the men’s doubles, there is no representative from Japan; it is very different in the women’s doubles. Miyuu Kihara and Miyu Nagasaki, the recent winners in Austria, finished the year in the top spot (739 points), while compatriots Miu Hirano and Saki Shibata concluded their efforts in fifth position (263 points).
Korea Republic’s Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun (525 points), semi-finalists last year in Incheon, secured second place but undoubtedly the favourites for gold are China’s Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu. The winners in Qatar and, even more significantly, the World Championships in Budapest, they ended the year in fourth place in the standings (513 points).
Next on the list of qualifiers is Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu and Cheng Hsien-Tzu (439 points); the combination of Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova and Hana Matelova heads European hopes, as they finished in sixth position (247 points).