Ma-Boll pair have a mountain to climb in world championships

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, April 25, 2015
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A Chinese-German duo supposed to be a week-long highlight at the world table tennis championships will have a seemingly insurmountable mountain to climb as the draw was unveiled on Saturday.

The pairing of world No. 1 Ma Long and No. 7 Timo Boll, a Chinese move to broaden the appeal of the game in the world, is expected to have an early clash with top Chinese duo Zhang Jike and Xu Xin in the men's doubles second round.

"I expected the transnational pair to play against Zhang and Xu in the final, but that won't happen now," said Chinese team leader Huang Biao.

Ma and Boll had their first doubles practice Saturday noon, watched by a swarm of people including Chinese coach Liu Guoliang and his German counterpart Zhu Xiaoyong, as well as Zhang and Xu.

The newly-combined team lost the practice game 2-1 to Chinese Fan Zhendong and Zhou Yu who took the deciding set 11-9.

Liu Guoliang gave advice in Chinese and Zhu, a former Chinese national team player, translated into German.

"Boll is among the three most talented players in the world and is undisputedly No. 1 in Europe," said Liu.

Boll said after the game that he was trying to get used to Ma Long's lightning fast pace.

Liu agreed, saying Ma was quicker than Boll but the latter was able to attack comfortably while away from the table.

"They need more practice," Liu added.

Liu admitted the doubles draw put him in a very difficult situation since he expected Ma-Boll duo to fight all the way to the final but he didn't want Zhang and Xu to lose.

"The transnational pairing is part of China's campaign to make the game more popular and everyone loves to see Ma-Boll pair in the championship final," said Liu.

"But Zhang and Xu, as China's top doubles pair, are a main part of the Chinese plan for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

"I will sit on the fence when these two pairs clash with each other. I will accept any result."

Boll expects a tough battle against Zhang-Xu duo, saying he was looking forward to the game against the strongest pair in doubles but admitting "it won't be easy".

Xu, ranked second to Ma in the world, will combine with South Korean Yang Haeun in the mixed doubles. They face stiff challenge from Chinese Chen Meng and Frenchman Emmanuel Lebesson.

In the women's doubles, Chinese Li Xiaodan will partner with Nanthana Komwong from Thailand.

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