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Table Tennis: Olympic champ Zhang, World No. 1 Ma face early clash in Dubai

Olympic champion Zhang Jike (pictured), drawn against Japan’s Taku Takakiwa in the round of 16, could face World No. 1 Ma Long in the quarter-finals of the World Tour Grand Finals in Dubai. Photos: ITTF.

Olympic champion Zhang Jike (pictured), drawn against Japan’s Taku Takakiwa in the round of 16, could face World No. 1 Ma Long in the quarter-finals of the World Tour Grand Finals in Dubai. Photos: ITTF.

January 8, 2014: Reigning World and Olympic champion Zhang Jike could potentially play good friend and World No. 1 Ma Long in the quarter-finals of the US$1 million GAC Group 2013 World Tour Grand Finals in Dubai.

 

The draw took place at Movenpick Hotel, while the tournament begins at Al Nasr Sports Club on Thursday and concludes on Sunday.

 

Zhang, 25, is seeking to win the tournament for the first time after winning every other major event in the sport, having won two World Championships (2011, 2013), the 2012 Olympics and the 2011 World Cup.

 

“It is a certainly a tough draw,” admitted Zhang, the current World No. 3, who will play Taku Takakiwa of Japan in the round of 16 on Thursday.

 

“This event is very difficult to win, just as difficult as the Olympic Games. Let’s hope I can finally win this prestigious event here in Dubai.”

 

Remarkably, Olympic bronze medallist Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany is still to win even one match in the World Tour Grand Finals following five unsuccessful campaigns.

 

The World No. 6 and European champion will attempt to make a breakthrough when he takes on Kim Min-seok of Korea in the first round.

 

“Since I have never won a World Tour Grand Finals match, I have no pressure. If I win a match, it will be my best-ever result, which will be fantastic,” Ovtcharov said.

 

Like Zhang, women’s top seed Ding Ning of China is also looking to win the event for the first time.

 

Women’s top seed Ding Ning is looking to win the World Tour Grand Finals for the first time.

Women’s top seed Ding Ning is looking to win the World Tour Grand Finals for the first time.

The World No. 2 starts her campaign against Shandong-born Jiang Huajun of Hong Kong before a possible showdown with World No. 3 Li Xiaoxia, who beat her in the final of the 2012 Olympics in London.

 

“The last three years I have been the runner up, so hopefully I can win this year,” said Ding, the 23-year-old left-hander who won the World Cup and World Championships in 2011.

 

“The top half of the draw is very tough as it includes the three medallists from London 2012 (also bronze medallist Feng Tianwei of Singapore), so it won’t be easy to make the final.”

 

World No. 1 Liu Shiwen is in the bottom half of the draw and will face Elizabeta Samara of Romania in the first round.

 

The sport’s most lucrative event, the World Tour Grand Finals features the highest ranked 16 men and 16 women from the 19 World Tour events in 2013. The men’s and women’s champions each earn US$104,000.

 

In addition to the men’s and women’s singles, there are also men’s and women’s doubles, and boys’ and girls’ under-21 singles events.

 

Source: ITTF

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