September: Fan Zhendong

fan zhendong - photo by the ITTF
photo provided “courtesy of the ITTF”

Fan Zhendong has been selected as SD Sport’s spotlight for September, after winning every match bar one in the 2015 Chinese Super League.

The Chinese international player was born in Guangzhou (1997) and started playing at the age of 6. He made a sudden entrance onto the world stage following his victory in the 2012 World Junior Table Tennis Championships, where he beat Lin Gaoyuan in the final. Fan also won the men’s singles event at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, and team golds at: the China nationals, the Asian Games and the World Team Championships. He is a winner of four ITTF Pro Tour gold medals.

Fan is an attacking-minded table tennis player who makes use of quick footwork and deadly forehand loops to out-hit the opposition, and has often been compared with Ma Long. 18-year-old Fan has been trained by China’s elite including Wang Hao and Ma Lin and at one point reached a personal best rank of 2nd in the world.

China’s Fan Zhendong became the youngest player to win a men’s singles gold in the senior category of an ITTF Pro Tour competition following his success at the 2014 Polish Open. He has since been runner-up at the Asian Cup on two occasions in 2014 and 2015, and he took home a World Championship silver medal after he partnered up with Zhou Yu in the men’s doubles tournament in Suzhou.

Fan almost led Bayi to the 2015 Chinese Super League title after he won 35/36 of his matches, but they fell at the last hurdle to Ningbo Haitian in the play-off final. Zhang Chao was the only player to beat Fan Zhendong, as the latter of the two claimed important wins over Ma Long and Xu Xin (World No.1 and No.2).

Rio 2016 has to be the aim for Fan Zhendong after he climbed to an impressive 3rd in the world rankings, but the general opinion is that he would have to move into the top two to have any chance of making the squad. With Zhang Jike’s poor run of results in 2015 and with Xu Xin not too far in front, there may yet be a chance that we will see the ever improving Fan Zhendong at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Fan Zhendong vs Timo Boll at the 2015 World Championships – video kindly shared by ttlondon2012