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Could Japan end China's ping-pong supremacy?

Updated : 2017-04-18
By Dominic Morgan (chinadaily.com.cn)

Since the turn of the century, China has reigned supreme in the world of table tennis. But now a talented young Japanese team is eyeing China’s throne, Dominic Morgan reports.

On paper, China swept all before them once again last week at the 23rd ITTF Asian Championships in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, winning six of a possible seven events.

But on the final day of play on April 16, the mood in the Chinese camp was far from triumphant.

"We have faced some upsets from others in the tournament but that shouldn't be something for me to be thinking about; it's beyond my control," said China's defending champion Fan Zhendong ahead of his men's singles final.

Even after Fan had demolished his Korean opponent Jeong Sangeun 3-0 to retain his title, Chinese head coach Liu Guoliang struggled to put a positive spin on his team's performance.

"I think it's a good thing to have competitors who can pose real challenges, which makes our sport more competitive and healthy," said Liu.

Looking beyond the list of winners, it is easy to see why so much soul-searching is happening in Chinese table tennis after Wuxi.

Could Japan end China's ping-pong supremacy?

Miu Hirano of Japan celebrates after beating China's Chen Meng in the women's singles final at the ITTF Asian Championships in Wuxi on April 15.[Photo/chinadaily.com.cn]

Total dominance at major tournaments is par for the course for China, where ping-pong is the national sport. The country has won six out of seven events or more at every Asian Championships since 2005.

Despite extending this record in 2017, there were signs that the Chinese team's grip at the summit of world table tennis may be weakening.

For the first time since 2000, China failed to provide both finalists in the men's singles final, with world number one Ma Long suffering a shock third round exit to unranked outsider Jeong.

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