We can win when it matters most, says defending champion Ma Long

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/5/29 10:52:18

World number one Ma Long said here on Sunday that the Chinese players will be able to handle the pressure at the world championships despite growing challenges from opponents like 2020 Olympic host Japan.

"Every player wants to play their best here," said Ma, also the men's singles Olympic champion in Rio. "Everybody is under pressure. But we will win when it matters most. We are going to play our best. We will enjoy the world championships."

Japanese teenager Miu Hirano shocked three Chinese stars, including world number one and Olympic champion Ding Ning, to capture the women's singles title and prevent a Chinese clean-sweep at the Asian championships last month. The 17-year-old's rise sounded alarm for the Chinese national team, who had vowed not to lose any gold medal in the Tokyo Olympics in three years.

"Both the men's and women's teams of Japan have improved a lot since they successfully won the right to host the 2020 Olympic Games," Ma said. "Although it is still three years to go and I am not sure whether I will be still playing, I believe we can achieve better results here in Dusseldorf than in the Asian championships."

"I totally agree with Ma Long," said Ding, also the defending world champion. "Miu has got China's attention after the Asian championships. We will pay more attention to her before the Tokyo Olympic Games. But the most important thing is that we need to focus on ourselves and play our best."

Hirano, now ranked sixth in the world, became the first Japanese to win the World Cup singles title last year. She said that playing in the Chinese Super League has helped her become what she is today.

"I have won many titles," Hirano said. "I know I am under a lot of pressure. But I have a very positive attitude."

In the men's competition, Germany is among the title challengers, namely with world number five Dimitrij Ovtcharov and world number eight Timo Boll.

"I hope, of course, to get my first world championship singles medal," said Ovtcharov, who reached the last 16 three times in a row since 2009. "But there are actually more strong players at the world championships than at the Olympics. It will be anything but easy."

Posted in: EYE ON THE BALL

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