By Abdul Rahim, Special Correspondence from Dubai, UAE
Dubai, Jan 8, 2013: Tensions are building in Dubai as the draw for the 1-million-dollar GAC Group 2013 World Tour Grand Final has taken place at the Movenpick Hotel.
World and Olympic Champion ZHANG Jike did not have the luck of the draw, as he will potentially play good friend and world number one MA Long in the quarterfinals.
“It is a certainly a tough draw,” admitted ZHANG, who has won every major table tennis event apart from the World Tour Grand Final. “This event is very difficult to win; just as difficult as the Olympic Games. Lets hope I can finally win this prestigious event here in Dubai,” concluded the 24-year-old who plays TAKAKIWA Taku (JPN), in the round of 16 on Thursday.
ZHANG Jike may not have won the World Tour Grand Final, but world number six and European Champion Dimitrij OVTCHAROV has remarkably never won a single match at the World Tour Grand Finals in five previous attempts.
After the draw, the Olympic bronze medalist, who plays KIM Minseok (KOR) in the first round, stated: “Since I have never won a World Tour Grand Final match, I have no pressure. If I win a match it will be my best ever result, which will be fantastic.”
Like compatriot ZHANG Jike, 2009 World Champion and number one seed DING Ning has also never won the 1-million-dollar event.
DING Ning, who starts her campaign against JIANG Huajun (KOR) before a possible showdown with LI Xiaoxia, who beat her in the London 2012 gold medal match, stated: “The last three years I have been the runner up, so hopefully I can win this year! The top half of the draw is very tough as it includes the three medalists from London 2012 (also FENG Tianwei SIN) so it wont be easy to make the final.”
The GAC Group 2013 World Tour Grand Final sees the highest ranked 16 men and 16 women from the 19 World Tour events battle it out for 1 million dollars, which is the biggest table tennis prize purse on the planet. In addition to the men’s and women’s singles, there is also men’s and women’s doubles, and boys’ and girls’ under 21 singles events here in Dubai.
All the action begins at 10:30am local time on Thursday 9 January 2014 at the Al Nasr Sports Club in Dubai.