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Olympic Games: European opposition set to test leading names

Friday 23 July

Strange things can happen but in the men’s singles event at the forthcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, should matter go to plan, for China’s Fan Zhendong and Ma Long, strong European opposition could well await as they vie for a place in a medal round.

At the quarter-final stage, Fan Zhendong, the top seed, is scheduled to meet Germany’s Timo Boll, the no.8 seed; for Ma Long, the no.2 seed, it could well be a repeat of the final at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest. Sweden’s Mattias Falck, the no.6 seed, is the player in question.

However, that is looking into the crystal ball, there are hurdles to overcome before such a premise can become reality.

In his opening contest, Fan Zhendong could well face Frenchman Emmanuel Lebesson, the no.27 seed, then either Portugal’s Marcos Freitas, the no.16 seed or Austria’s Daniel Habesohn, the no.32 seed.

Similarly for Timo Boll, most worthy opponents beckon. Like Fan Zhendong entering proceedings in round three, the now 40 year old could well face Kazakhstan’s Kirill Gerassimenko, the no.30 seed, before in the fourth round confronting Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik, the no.10 seed, or Egypt’s Ahmed Ali Saleh, the no.31 seed, being the adversary.

Worthy adversaries, it is the same for Ma Long. In the third round the potential opponent is India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta, the no.20 seed; either Frenchman Simon Gauzy, the no.14 seed, or Denmark’s Jonathan Groth, the no.22 seed, could be round four opponents.

A last eight meeting with Mattias Falck, Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting, the no.13 seed or Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan, the no.19 seed, may have other ideas. One of those players potentially awaits in round four, the possible round three opponent being India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta.

Contests to catch the eye but if one possible quarter-final contest attracts the attention it is that between the young men who in recent times have lit up the arenas of the world. Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto, the no.3 seed, may well face Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju, the no.5 seed.

Sweden’s Anton Källberg, the no.29 seed, is the possible third round adversary for Lin Yun-Jun, then either Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna, the no.15 seed or Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi, the no.25 seed.

Matches to savour but even more so for Tomokazu Harimoto. In his opening contest India’s Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, the no.26 seed, is the possible opponent with either Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic, the no.18 seed, or Great Britain’s Liam Pitchford, the no.11 seed, next in line.

Notably, Tomokazu Harimoto has experienced problems against Liam Pitchford, the British player has won three of their four meetings, including the most recent, the 2019 Team World Cup in Tokyo!

A tough task awaits Tomokazu Harimoto, as it does for colleague, Koki Niwa, the no.12 seed. Commencing play in round three, potentially he faces Slovakia’s Wang Yang, the no.24 seed; then either Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the no.7 seed or Kanak Jha of the United States, the no.21 seed.

Also, in the same quarter of the draw appears the name of Korea Republic’s Jang Woojin, the no.9 seed. Austria’s Robert Gardos, the no.11 seed and at 42 years of age the oldest player in the men’s singles event, is a potential third round adversary. Success and either Brazil’s Hugo Calderano, the no.4 seed or Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar awaits.

According to plan, it’s the Olympic Games, special, who knows what may happen.

Editor: Ian Marshall

Photo Credit: ITTF

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