|Can Zhang Jike win a second World Cup?|
The ITTF Leibherr World Cup will take place in Dusseldorf, Germany which poses a dangerous environment for the top 2 seeds, Ma Long and Zhang Jike. No doubt a strong European crowd will be in place behind the top European competitors. The crowds will surely be putting their support behind their home athletes, 3rd seed Dimitrij Ovtcharov and 5 time World Cup medallist Timo Boll (twice a winner in 2002 and 2005).
In order to win Zhang Jike will have to put all his reservations aside. In the 4th seed position is Jun Mizutani of Japan who Zhang is all too familiar with. In 2010 Jike found himself battling back from a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3 at his first World Cup appearance. Jike went on to lose the final to Wang Hao. At that World Cup only one other player defeated Zhang Jike, in the group stages, and that player was 5th seed Chuang Chih-Yuan who exceeded expectation in a spectacular match. Check it out below!
Marcos Freitas also enters the mix, having excellent results to help Portugal at the recent European Champs where they made history by defeating Germany in the final on their home turf. Tang Peng is the final player in the top 8, though Jike maintains a flawless win record against the player from Hong Kong.
A wealth of experience lies within the World Cup field and we all know on the right day any of these athletes has potential to upset any of the top seeds, however the real task for Zhang Jike will be against one of his biggest rivals, Ma Long.
Ma Long was the 2012 World Cup champion and holds a record 15 ITTF Pro Tour titles to his name. His international performances against Zhang Jike have mostly been in Ma's favour though the players have drawn closer together in the last couple of years.
Can Zhang Jike rise to the occasion as he so often does in the major world events. This will be a true test of how determined Zhang Jike is to rise to head coach Liu Guoliang's challenge. Can Zhang Jike move on great step forward in his mission to be the first player to win 2 Grand Slams?
Deng Yaping has been the closest to achieving this feat thus far, being the only player to win 2 Olympic Games titles, combined with her 3 World Championship singles titles and a lonely single World Cup title. This is the moment for Zhang Jike, winning here would restore Liu Guoliang's faith in his ability to complete the task at the Rio Olympic Games. Can he do it? What do you think?