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Confirmed Lists Announced for Million Dollar Finals
A total prize fund of over one million dollars on offer, with the Men’s and Women’s Singles winners each pocketing US$104,000, the list of players competing in the forthcoming GAC GROUP 2012 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals was announced by the International Table Tennis Federation on Monday 19th November.
Staged in the Zhejiang Huangiong Sports Centre, in the city of Hangzhou from Thursday 6th to Sunday 9th December, the tournament will have a format slightly different to previous years.
The Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles events each witnesses 20 players in action.
A total of 16 in each event qualified via the GAC GROUP 2012 ITTF World Tour, a further four through the inaugural year of the ITTF Euro-Africa Circuit.
Otherwise it is the situation is as in previous years.
Eight pairs will contest each of the Men’s and Women’s Doubles events; similarly, eight players in will be in action in the Under 21 Men’s Singles competition and also in the counterpart Women’s Singles event.
Tianjin the First Host
It is the 17th time that the Grand Finals have been staged; the first occasion being, likewise in China, in the city of Tianjin, when in 1996, the host nation’s Kong Linghui and Deng Yaping arrested the Men’s and Women’s Singles titles.
Both now have retired from international play several years ago but there are seven former champions on duty, including two defending champions, in one of whom Kong Linghui shares a special interest.
He is the personal coach of Liu Shiwen, the winner of the Women’s Singles title at the ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals in London’s ExCeL Exhibition Centre in November 2011; she defends her title in Hangzhou.
The one other title defender is Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, the winner of the Under 21 Women’s Singles event in London; she heads the list of qualifiers for the same event in Hangzhou.
Two Titles Each
Two players trying to retain their hard won titles; there are four players and one pair, trying to regain their precious crowns.
The host nation’s Ma Lin and Wang Hao have both win the Men’s Singles title on two occasions; Ma Lin won in Hainan in 2001 and in 2007 in Beijing; whilst Wang Hao succeeded in Guangzhou in 2003 and in 2006 in Hong Kong.
Should either succeed, they will equal the current record holders, their compatriots, Ma Long and Wang Liqin.
Neither has qualified for Hangzhou, neither met the minimum five appearance criteria on the GAC GROUP 2012 ITTF World Tour but both have donned the Grand Finals Men’s Singles crown on three occasions.
Wang Liqin won in Paris in 2008, in Kobe in 2000 and in Beijing in 2004; all three titles gained before Ma Long broke the ice. He won in Macao in 2008 and 2009, whilst most recently succeeding in London one year ago.
The male record is in danger but not the female record.
Zhang Yining won the Women’s Singles titles four times; she succeeded in Kobe in 2000, in Stockholm in 2002, in Fuzhou in 2005 and one year later she retained her title by succeeding in Hong Kong.
No player on duty in Hangzhou in the Women’s Singles event has ever won the title more than once; the only other previous winner in action is Singapore’s Feng Tianwei. She won in Seoul in December 2010.
Koreans Seeking to Regain Crown
Meanwhile, in the doubles events, the only previous pair to win the title, who will be in action in Hangzhou, is the Korean combination of Kim Kyungah and Park Miyoung; they won in Seoul in 2010.
No other partnership in action in the GAC GROUP 2012 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals has achieved the distinction; the nearest is the Singapore’s Gao Ning and Yang Zi, they won the Men’s Doubles title in Macao in 2008 and they are present in Hangzhou but not together.
Gao Ning partners Li Hu, Yang Zi joins forces with Zhan Jian.
Titles retained, titles regained or a new names on the Roll of Honour; all three are distinct options, Xu Xin and Ding Ning might just have an influence on the outcome.