Choose your doubles partner; surely Killerspin's Chinese star, Chen Qi, would be very high on the list, especially if you are right handed.
At the forthcoming World Championships, to be staged in Paris from Monday 13th May to Monday 20th May 2013, the fortunate player is Fang Bo, the winner of a clean sweep of titles in 2009 at the Volkswagen World Junior Championships and the victor, earlier this year, in the Men’s Singles event on the ITTF World Tour in Austria.
The combination of the powerful right handed Fang Bo, very much Ma Long Mark II, a safe backhand and a crunching forehand, in harness with Chen Qi, is an intriguing partnership.
In the words of Gao Jun, one of the best female doubles players of the past two decades and more, you need an architect and a killer.
If ever there was a partnership that fielded an architect and a killer, it is the pairing of Chen Qi with Fang Bo.
Unquestionably Fang Bo is the killer, Chen Qi is the supreme architect; if talent can be defined; Chen Qi oozes talent.
Coaches will tell you need good hands to play table tennis, Chen Qi has magical hands, deft touches that gain angles, exquisite placement and the ability to attack quickly whether over the table or away from the table.
Chen Qi has the full artillery.
At the Beijing Olympic Games he was the reserve for the Chinese Men’s Team of Ma Lin, Wang Liqin and Wang Hoa; no doubt the thinking being that if any member of the trio was incapacitated, he could play doubles with any member of the outfit.
Especially he could partner Ma Lin; so it is somewhat surprising that in Paris, he does not partner Ma Lin.
It was with Ma Lin that he won Olympic gold in Athens in 2004 and the World Championships in 2007 in Zagreb; whilst in 2009 in Yokohama he won with Wang Hao.
In Paris, Ma Lin partners Hao Shuai whilst the one further Chinese Men’s Doubles combination is Wang Liqin and Zhou Yu; noticeably all three partnerships involve a left and right handed player.
Most certainly in Paris, the partnership of Chen Qi and Fang Bo starts as one of the favourites and if at the end of the tournament, Chen Qi stands alongside Fang Bo on the top step of the medal podium, he will etch his name as one of only three players who have won the Men’s Doubles title at a World Championships with three different partners.
Furthermore, if Chen Qi can succeed, it could be argued that his achievement will be the greatest of all, the other two are from an era when the World Championships, included team and individual events, and were played on an annual basis.
The notable names are Victor Barna who represented Hungary and later England, Ivan Andreadis who competed under the colours of Czechosklovakia.
Victor Barna won with Hungarian compatriot Miklos Szabados on no less than six occasions (1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1934, 1935), with colleague Sandor Glancz in 1933 and England’s Richard Bergmann in 1939; prior to 1939 Richard Bergmann had represented Austria.
Currently, Chen Qi stands alongside four further players who have won the Men’s Doubles title at a World Championships with two different partners.
They are Jimmy McClure from the United States plus the Chinese trio of Li Zhenshi, Kong Linghui and Wang Hao.
Jimmy McClure won with Bob Blattner in 1936 and 1937 and with Sol Schiff in 1938; whilst Li Zhenshi succeeded with Liang Geliang in 1977 and Cai Zhenhua in 1981.
Meanwhile, Kong Linghui won with Wang Hao in 2005 and with Liu Guoliang in 1997 and 1999; whilst, of course, Wang Hao succeded with Chen Qi in 2009.
In the art of doubles, Chen Qi is the maestro but when it comes to singles, he is no mean competitor and it somewhat of a mystery why he has not a greater collection of Men’s Singles titles.
If the question was posed at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, as to who would be in the Chinese Men’s Team for the 2012 London Olympic Games; Chen Qi would have received the vote alongside Ma Long and Wang Hao.
The name of Zhang Jike was not on the lips of the pundits, although he had played in a few ITTF World Tour tournaments, the future Olympic and World champion, made his debut for the Chinese Men’s Team at the World Team Cup in Linz in October 2009. The rest as they say is history.
Later in 2011 Chen Qi, with the might of China present, won the Men’s Singles title at the English Open in Sheffield, such is the quality of the man; such is the intense competition to gain a place in the Chinese Men’s Team.
In Paris, Chen Qi will be making his seventh appearance in a World Championships; on the past six occasions he has always departed with a medal. In 2006 in Bremen and 2008 in Guangzhou he was a member of the gold medal winning Chinese outfit when the Team Championships were held.
However, most pertinently on the four occasions he has competed, when the individual events have been staged, he has always won a Men’s Doubles medal.
In addition to his wins in 2007 in Zagreb and 2009 in Yokohama, with Ma Lin he was a bronze medallist on debut in Shanghai in 2005 and a silver medallist in Rotterdam in 2011.
Now in 2013 can he maintain the sequence and can he etch his name amongst the greatest of yesterday?
It’s more than possible, Paris and history awaits.