A debut in the Olympic Games and as with his colleagues, a great deal is expected of Fan Zhendong; in Tokyo he lines up alongside Ma Long and Xu Xin in the men’s team event, more significantly his name appears on the men’s singles list.
Play commences in the Metropolitan Gymnasium on Saturday 24th July.
Shouldering responsibility, it is a facet of Fan Zhendong.
The 2012 World Junior Championships in Hyderabad was when most first set eyes on Fan Zhendong. Only 15 years old at the time, he won the boys’ singles title; eyes focused very much on his compatriot Lin Gaoyuan, the player who had been the runner up on the two most previous occasions in Bratislava and Manama.
They met in the final. Fan Zhendong remained resolute, against his three years elder adversary, he remained calm, no sense of panic, as he recovered from a two games to nil deficit to secure victory. The performance belied his tender years.
However, it was two years later at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games when he underlined that fact he could manage a situation when he was very much the young man in focus.
Only one player per National Olympic Committee permitted in the singles event, on home soil, he duly responded. No other player in the tournament was able to cope with the backspin skills of Japan’s Yuto Muramatsu. They met in the final, Fan Zhendong prevailed in six games 11-8, 9-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-4).
Undoubtedly the fourth game was crucial, once secured Fan Zhendong was in an unstoppable rhythm, the title was secured but maybe more importantly with Tokyo in mind, he had experienced the Olympic atmosphere.
Since those day Fan Zhendong has gone from strength to strength, most notably securing the Men’s World Cup title on four of his five appearance; the errant occasion being his first excursion in 2015 in Halmstad when beaten in the final by Ma Long.
Over the years, the hallmark of his play has become his consistency; is he not better in the counter topspin art than the former master, Wang Liqin, when other players would have surrendered the point, somehow Fan Zhendong returns the ball.
Add his calm nature, his resolve and one factor is clear, Fan Zhendong is suited to the Tokyo stage.
Editor: Ian Marshall