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Table Tennis: Chinese teen Fan faces new-found pressure at Kuwait Open

Chinese teenager Fan Zhendong of China, the youngest ever winner of an ITTF World Tour event, will be the top seed in the men's singles at the Kuwait Open Super Series event. Photo: ITTF.

Chinese teenager Fan Zhendong of China, the youngest ever winner of an ITTF World Tour event, will be the top seed in the men’s singles at the Kuwait Open Super Series event. Photo: ITTF.

February 12, 2014: Chinese teenager Fan Zhendong will have to cope with the pressure of being the top seed and favourite in the men’s singles at this week’s Kuwait Open, the first Super Series event on this year’s GAC Group ITTF World Tour. The main knockout draw starts on Friday, following two days of qualifiers.

 

The 17-year-old Fan, who stunned the table tennis world last year by becoming the youngest-ever winner of an ITTF World Tour event at the age of 16, will now have to cope with the expectations that come with being World No. 4 and tournament favourite.

 

“Last year when I won the Polish and German Opens, they were among my first events on the senior circuit so I was considered an underdog with nothing to lose and just giving it my best shot,” said Fan, the 2012 World Junior Championship winner.

 

“This year more people know me, so I definitely have to play better in order to improve myself. My goal for the 2014 World Tour is to play to win, starting with the Kuwait Open.”

 

Marcos Freitas is also high on confidence after the 26-year-old Portuguese won the recent DHS Europe Cup, where he stated that his next goal was to defeat the top Chinese players.

 

World No. 1 Liu Shiwen will be the top seed in the women’s singles in Kuwait City. Photo: Action Images / Jacques Martinos.

World No. 1 Liu Shiwen is the top seed as she bids for a third Kuwait Open title. Photo: Action Images / Jacques Martinos.

In the women’s singles, World No. 1 Liu Shiwen will be the one to watch after an outstanding 2013 season where the 23-year-old Chinese star won both the Women’s World Cup and the season-ending World Tour Grand Final in Dubai last month. Liu is bidding for her third Kuwait Open title after wins in 2010 and last year.

 

“All the opponents here are very strong and I will have to take it one step at a time, focusing on my own play,” Liu said. “It’s a new season, so I don’t have any extra pressure. I would like to use the GAC Group World Tour to improve my game and mentality, as preparation for the 2014 World Championships.”

 

The Kuwait Open also incudes men’s and women’s doubles, and men’s and women’s Under-21 competitions. A total of 219 players are competing in Kuwait City, many of them in their first international event of the season.

 

The 2014 World Tour consists of 22 events in 22 countries, total prize money of US$2,739,700 and entry to the World Tour Grand Final later in the year. The World Tour comprises six top-tier Super Series events, five Major Series events and 11 lower-tier Challenge Series events.

 

Source: ITTF

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