Tokyo Olympics 2021: Table Tennis: Fan Zhendong vs Emmanuel Lebesson: Preview and Prediction

World number 1 in Men's Table Tennis, Fan Zhendong locks horns against the 40th-ranked Emmanuel Lebesson in the 3rd round of the table tennis event at the Tokyo Olympics 2021. 

Match Details:

Men’s Singles Third Round
Date: 27th July
Time: 10:00 AM Japan Standard Time
Venue: Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium

Fan Zhendong vs Emmanuel Lebesson: H2H

Zhendong leads the head-to-head record 1-0 against Lebesson. The Chinese star also partnered with compatriot Wang Chuquin and beat Lebesson and Tristan Flore 3-1 in the quarterfinals of the Qatar Open in 2020. 

Fan Zhendong vs Emmanuel Lebesson: Key Insights

  • Fan Zhendong won the Table Tennis World Cup in November last year. He defeated countryman Ma Long with a scoreline of 4-3.
  • Lebesson is in good form after reaching the semifinals of the mixed doubles event in Tokyo. The Frenchman teamed up with Yuan Jia Nan and lost 4-0 to the Chinese pair of Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen.
  • Zhendong warmed up for the big tournament by featuring in the Chinese Olympic Scrimmages in May 2021. Fan won the second stage of the event beating compatriot Xu Xin.
  • Emmanuel Lebesson will also play the bronze medal match today.  He and Yuan Jia take on the Chinese Taipei pair of Cheng-I-Ching and Lin Yun-Ju.
  • Fan Zhendong had a stellar season last year with a win-loss record of 18-2.

Will the small playing area affect Fan Zhendong’s performance?

Zhendong, a 2014 Youth Olympics champion will be making his debut at the Olympic Games. Liu Guoliang, the President of the Chinese Table Tennis Association had earlier said that the playing area in Tokyo was just 6x11 metres, which is less than the normal length of 7x14 metres.

Hence, Zhendong will have to focus on his potent side serve. The Chinese star would have to prevent his serves from hitting the screen board. He should change his pattern of shotmaking to avoid errors. 

Further, the 24-year-old must follow new rules introduced to curb the spread of Covid-19. Fan Zhendong should not blow air on the ball and never wipe the table with his hands. He will take some time to adjust to the new protocols formulated by the organizers.

Can Emmanuel Lebesson continue his fabulous form?

Emmanuel had a good test of the conditions in Tokyo after making it to the mixed doubles semifinals with Yuan Jia Nan. The World number 40 has been inconsistent in singles events in 2021. The Frenchman has a 1-3 win-loss record.

Despite making subtle changes to his game, the 33-year-old always struggles against higher-ranked Chinese players. Lebesson’s sluggish starts will make his task tougher against the high-flying Zhendong.

Wrapping Up

Zhendong will be a bit rusty as he is yet to play a competitive match in Tokyo. The 4-time Men’s World cup champion is known for his lightning-fast strokeplay. The powerful shakehand grip will make a huge difference against Emmanuel.

 In a sport where margins are small, Fan Zhendong will aim to take the first 2 games against Lebesson. He will try to avoid taking the clash to 7 games. This would help the World number 1 to grab momentum and outplay his giant-killing opponent as the match progresses.

Prediction: Fan Zhendong to win in 5 games against Emmanuel Lebesson in the third round of Tokyo Olympics 2021.

Featured Image Credits - Olympics Official Website

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