European paddlers hope to see non-Chinese world champions

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The world are mulling over the way to break China's stranglehold on table tennis as legend Jan-Ove Waldner, Bettine Vriesekoop, Timo Boll and Jorgen Persson called for non-Chinese champions to help promote the sport.

China looked poised to make another sweep of the golds for the consecutive fourth time at the ongoing World Championships as they suffered only one loss through Yan An/Feng Yalan in the mixed doubles midway though the tournament.

Their ace players Wang Hao, Ma Lin, Ma Long, Li Xiaoxia, Liu Shiwen, Ding Ning and Guo Yue, all world champions, qualified forcefully for the final 16.

It would be good for the sport if some non-Chinese players could win the titles at the championships in Rotterdam, said Waldner, the individual world champion in 1989 and 1997 who enjoys high esteem even in China.

"The sports needs a world champion from another country," the Swede said.

"It will also be good for China. It's the same like in other sports. You need to have different players on top like in tennis, with (Rafal) Nadal, (Roger) Federer and (Novak) Djokovic.

"The level of the current tournament is good, but the problem is that the Chinese are too good," he said.

"At the time I was playing there were many players from different countries, not only from Sweden. Now Europe is not so strong in table tennis as Asia, or especially China. We like to do many other sports like football. At the moment table tennis is not big, only in Germany the level is good. At the moment the top players in Europe are older and the new players are not coming, only from Germany. We need some more. I don't see any youngsters at the moment who can threaten the Chinese," he said.

Germany's Timo Boll, currently world No. 2, agreed with Waldner that it would be good for the sport to have a different world champion.

"The last few years were a little boring in the end with only Chinese playing in the finals. It would also be more interesting for the Chinese to get a world champion from another country," he said.

"We will do our best, but the Chinese are the best players in the world. They do not just have one good player, but seven of them and all are able to win the championships. Not just one or two, but seven," he said.

One of the contestants at the WTTC in Rotterdam knows how to beat the Chinese and become world champion. Jorgen Persson, who went out in the second round on Wednesday, was the best of the world 10 years ago.

"The Chinese were good at the time I became champion and they are good now," he said. "They developed themselves and are absolute the best in the world at the moment. They also developed the game a lot and that's the reason why they are the No. 1."

"They are so strong in all parts. So hopefully it will be possible to beat them. You have to believe, like we did with Sweden in the 1980s. That's also important for Europe, to think that they are beatable," he said.

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