Qatar, favourite destination
The 2021 Asian Championships are set for September in Doha, the capital of the state of Qatar, a tournament in which China, as is the instance wherever they play, start as favourites.
Moreover they have very happy memories of visits to the region; none more so than from Monday 21st to Friday 25th February at the Liebherr 2005 Qatar Open.
Most notably Wang Liqin asserted his authority on proceedings in the men's singles event; he won the title without ever being extended to seven games.
In the opening round he overcame Iran's Afshin Nozouzi in straight games before beating Sweden's Jens Lundqvist in what was to prove to be his closest match en route to the title, the powerful Swede extending the champion elect to six games.
A potentially difficult hurdle negotiated, he overcame his compatriot Kong Linghui in straight games in round three before surrendering only one game in overcoming Chuang Chih-Yuan in the quarters. Next in line was Timo Boll, a player against whom the Chinese star did not have the best of records; of the encounters prior to Qatar the German had won four of their six meetings.
The first two games proved extremely close but Wang Liqin claimed them both; Boll won the third comfortably. However, Wang Liqin immediately replied with interest and duly won the next two games to secure a place in the final against Ma Lin.
Earlier, Ma Lin had repeated revenge for his Athens 2004 Olympic Games defeat by overcoming Jan-Ove Waldner in round three before defeating Ryu Seungmin in the quarters. In so doing he maintained his quite incredible record against the Korean. It was the ninth time in international competition that the pair had met and every single time, victory had gone the way of Ma Lin.
Ryu Seungmin beaten, Ma Lin turned his attentions to Adrian Crisan who had once again ended the hopes of Wang Hao; at the Volkswagen Open Japan in September 2004 he had beaten the Olympic Games silver medallist in straight games in round two; in Qatar he won in seven games at the quarter-final stage.
In the final it was Wang Liqin who made the better start; he won the first three games before Ma Lin replied and, as he had done in the men's singles final at the Volkswagen Pro Tour Grand Finals in December 2004, he emerged successful in five games to capture the title.
Success for the top seed in the men's singles and also in the women's singles; the number one seed Zhang Yining beat Wang Nan in five games to win the title and thus she avenged the reverse suffered at the hands of the reigning World champion at the Volkswagen Pro Tour Grand Finals in December 2004.
Zhang Yining's closest encounter on her way to the title came at the quarterfinal stage when she beat Mihaela Steff in seven games whilst for Wang Nan her toughest test had been in round three when she had been extended the full seven games distance by Song Ah Sim.
At the penultimate stage both players won in style. Zhang Yining beat Niu Jianfeng in four straight games as she had done at the Volkswagen Opens in Korea, Singapore and Japan in 2004, whilst Wang Nan beat Guo Yue in five games, after the latter had won a tough seven games quarter-final encounter against Kim Kyungah
The name to raise the eyebrows in the women's singles was that of Saki Kanazawa of Japan who was competing in her first ever ITIF Pro Tour tournament.
In the qualification stage she beat Croatia's Cornelia Vaida, Russia's Tatiana Mikhailova and Germany's Kristin Silbereisen before accounting for the Athens 2004 Olympic Games silver medallist, Kim Hyang Mi, in round one. She eventually lost in round two to Niu Jianfeng but she made the latter work hard for her victory; she won the first two games both by the 12-10 score line before the third seed recovered to take the next four games and end her progress.
Further successes came the way of China in the doubles events but both the men's doubles and women's doubles events had some surprises.
The biggest surprise came in the women's doubles semi-finals when Wang Nan and Zhang Yining lost in six games to Csilla Batorfi and Krisztina Toth. The latter duo had enjoyed a very successful 12 years partnership; they had many titles to their credit but the semi-final victory was one that they cherished.
However, the following day it was very much back to earth for the Hungarians, they lost in straight games in the final to Guo Yue and Niu Jianfeng.
Meanwhile, in the men's doubles the players to cause the surprise were Fedor Kuzmin and Alexei Smirnov. They beat the number one seeds and Olympic Games silver medallists, Ko Lai Chak and Li Ching, in the quarters before losing in seven games to the eventual winners Kong Linghui and Wang Hao; the latter duo clinched the title by beating their compatriots Chen Qi and Ma Lin, the number two seeds, in the final.
The fact that the Under 21 Men's and Women's Singles events had been included in the Volkswagen Pro Tour Grand Finals in Fuzhou in December 2005 was certainly a motivating factor.
Eight men and eight women were destined to qualify for the under 21 Finals; in order to qualify players must have competed in the Under 21 events in at least four ITTF Pro Tour tour naments dur ing 2005 and also on two continents. The players will be selected according to the Standings following the last Under 21 event on the 2005 ITTF Pro Tour.
Italy's Nicoletta Stefanova won the under 21 women' s singles titles in both Slovenia and Croatia beating the same player in both finals, Serbia 's Ana-Maria Erdelji but she couldn't make it three in a row; in Doha she lost in the semis to Kim Jong of North Korea who finished in runners up spot falling in six games at the final hurdle to Li Qiangbing.
Meanwhile, in the Under 21 Men's Singles both the final in Slovenia and in Croatia went the full seven games with Sweden's Johan Axelqvist gaining the verdict in Velenje with victory over Slovakia's Lubomir Pistej whilst in Zagreb it was France's Loic Bobiller who emerged successful, recovering from a three games to nil deficit to beat Brazil's Cazuo Matsumoto in the final.
Bobiller also reached the final of the Under 21 Men's Singles in Qatar but found Peter Sereda in determined mood, the Frenchmen losing in five games.
Sereda is in his last year in the Under 21 age category, his goa l is to qualify for Fuzhou and like all his contempor ar ies he applauds the fact that the Under 21 events are included in the Volkswagen Pro Tour Grand Fina ls; it is proving a very popular innovation.
Editor: Ian Marshall