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Table Tennis: Zhang looking to make history at World Cup in Belgium

Zhang Jike surrounded by family and fans when he won the ITTF World Championships in May. Photo: ITTF.

Zhang Jike surrounded by family and fans when he won the ITTF World Championships in May. Photo: ITTF.

September 15, 2013: Zhang Jike will bid to create history in Belgium next week when he attempts to become the first man to win two World Championships, an Olympic gold and a World Cup in a row.

 

The 25-year-old Chinese heads the 20 players invited to compete in the Liebherr ITTF Men’s World Cup, which will be held in Verviers from September 25-27. The tournament has been held every year since its inaugural edition in Hong Kong in 1980.

 

The world’s best male table tennis players, representing each continent, battled through qualification for the past five months to gain a ticket to Belgium.

 

Apart from the reigning ITTF World Champion, who gains direct qualification, and one wildcard selected by the ITTF, the only way to qualify is through the ITTF Continental Cups, with a different quota allocated to each continent based on the world ranking.

 

Zhang, who won the title two years ago and was a finalist in 2010, is confident of his own ability, recently stating: “I don’t have any idols. I never had any idols in any field. I am my own idol.”

 

The 2012 Olympic and two-time World Championships winner (2011, 2013) will face a barrage of competition from Europe, in particular Bulgaria’s Vladimir Samsonov, who has won the World Cup three times and was third last year.

 

“I can’t wait to play in the World Cup again,” said Samsonov, 37. “It’s always special to play in Belgium, the country where I played eight years for La Villette Charleroi, where me and my family have so many friends and the country where our kids are born. It will be a dream come true to add the fourth gold.”

 

The local crowd will be flocking to the Hall du Paire to get a glimpse of local living legend Jean-Michal Saive, who is competing in his 19th and possibly last World Cup.

 

“I’m so exited to play a 19th World Cup, especially as it will be in my country, in front of my fans – the fans that supported me over my 30 years of career,” Saive said.

 

“I’ve been called ‘the fighter’ all my career and it will not change during this event. Who knows, in front of all my country, I may be able to make a miracle and win a dream title. I already know that it will be a huge and important success for table tennis in Belgium and that’s the most important thing.”

 

In the first phase of the three-day event, players seeded 9-20 compete in four groups of three players. The players finishing first in each of the four groups advance to the second phase, where they join the top eight seeded players.

 

In the second phase, also consisting of group matches, players finishing first and second in each of the four groups progress to the quarter-finals, where the knockout begins.

 

At least 16 TV networks, with a reach of over 110 countries, will be broadcasting the event live or delayed: Eurosport (Worldwide), One World Sport (USA & Caribbean), Skynet (Myanmar), TDM (Macau), Starhub (Singapore), I-Cable (Hong Kong), GMM Grammy (Thailand), GDTV (China), CCTV (China), Al Jazeera Sports (MENA), ELTA (Taiwan), Astro (Malaysia), Foxsports (Australia), Perform – News (Worldwide), Fox Sports Asia – News (Asia) and EBU – News (EBU Members).

 

Men’s World Cup qualifiers:

ZHANG Jike (CHN), World Championships winner

LASHIN El-Sayed (EGY), African Cup winner

XU Xin (CHN), Asian Cup winner

MONTEIRO Thiago (BRA), Latin American Cup winner

Andre HO (CAN), North American Cup winner

William HENZELL (AUS), Oceania Cup winner

CHUANG Chih-Yuan (TPE), Asian Cup third

Noshad ALAMIYAN (IRI), Asian Cup fourth

TANG Peng (HKG), Asian Cup fifth

KIM Hyok-bong (PRK), Asian Cup sixth

CHEN Chien-an (TPE), Asian Cup seventh

JIANG Tianyi (HKG), Asian Cup eighth

YANG Zi (SIN), Asian Cup ninth/10th

Sharath Kamal (IND), Asian Cup ninth/10th

Timo BOLL (GER), Europe (QF WTTC)

Patrick BAUM (GER), Europe (QF WTTC)

Vladimir SAMSONOV (BLR), Europe (last 16 WTTC)

Marcos FREITAS (POR) Europe (last 16 WTTC)

Jean Michel SAIVE (BEL), Host player

Dimitrij OVTCHAROV (GER), Wild card

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