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by Ian Marshall, Editor

In early March Fan Zhendong won the Marvellous 12 in Shenzhen, he remained unbeaten; in so doing, after having suffered defeats on the Seamaster ITTF World Tour at the hands of Brazil’s Hugo Calderano in December at the Grand Finals then in January in Hungary when losing to colleague, Wang Chuqin, he endorsed the fact that he was back to his best.

Similarly, Ma Long, answered any doubters that he may need time to acclimatize after a seven month lay-off owing to injury; he brought the month of March to a close by winning the men’s singles title in Qatar. Furthermore he won without ever needing a deciding game.

It is the battle of the heavyweights, not in terms of kilos or pounds but in status; whatever the world rankings may read, surely they are the best two players in the world?

Have we forgotten one fact? They are both from China but such is the intriguing nature of the potential contest that such a detail counts for nought; it is the match we all want to see. We want to see a repeat of the men’s singles final at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf; simply breathtaking.

Heavyweights from the same country; for those of use with more mature years, was anyone concerned that Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier were both Americans when they fought their third and final contest for the Championship of the World in Wednesday 1st October 1975 in the Philippines?

Not at all, it was captivating; it was the “Thrilla in Manila”. Table tennis is boxing match; it is a contest between two athletes. Now be prepared, sit back, in Japan, “Drama in Yokohama” awaits.

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