The world table tennis championships to be held here for May 21-27 will produce its own moments of drama and will add to the history of table tennis.
In favor of Europe
Europe leads the race regarding men's singles titles. Chinese players have won on 13 occasions and Japanese players nine. Asia has a total of 20 men's singles victories but trails Europe which has 26 golds.
Winner five times (1930 and from 1932 to 1935); also in 1931 he lost in the final against his compatriot Miklos Szabados. He won his five men's singles titles representing Hungary; later he represented England. Richard Bergmann won four titles but with the outbreak of World War Two, the possibilities of matching Barna's record, was curtailed.
Four titles in 13 years
Richard Bergmann won his first men's singles title in 1937 and lost in the final one year later in Wembley (against Bohumil Vana of Czechoslovakia). In 1939, Bergmann played for England and won before the outbreak of war. After one further victory in 1948, he clinched his last title in 1950.
China ahead of Hungary
China had to wait the end of the 20th century to surpass Hungary's haul of men's singles titles. Hungarian players have 10 gold medals to their credit but when Liu Guoliang won in 1999, China became the most successful. It was China's 11th and in 2001 and 2005 they added two more successes. Wang Liqin won in both those years.
The man from Shanghai is the defending champion in Zagreb; he is currently ranked number two in the world and is seeking to match the achievement of his compatriot Zhuang Zedong. He won on three occasions.
No titles for South Korea
South Korean players have succeeded at Olympic Games on two occasions. Yoo Nam Kyu won in 1988 and Ryu Seung Min in 2004 but neither has ever won the world title. From Asia, it is only Japanese and Chinese players who have been crowned men's singles world champions.
Three players played in three finals without winning: the Hungarian Laszlo Bellak, the Pole Alex Ehrlich and China's Li Furong; Li Furong lost on three consecutive occasions to his compatriot Zhuang Zedong.
Victor Barna won five men's singles titles playing 19 times at the world championships between 1929 and 1954.
The longest career in the world championships is that enjoyed by Ivor Montagu. He played during a 27-year period; his first appearance was in 1926, his last in 1953.
Saive vs Waldner
Swedish legend Jan-Ove Waldner will not compete in Croatia. The effect is that he will trail Jean-Michel Saive in terms of appearances. Saive played his first world championships in 1983. In Zagreb he will play in his 16th; no player in Zagreb has played in more; alongside his brother, Philippe, the total appearances for the Saive family is 30.
China vs Asia
In 1987 the men's singles final was Europe versus Asia when Jan-Ove Waldner lost to Jiang Jialiang. It is one of only three men's singles finals that have played between a player from Europe and one from China; the others being in 1959 when Rong Guotuan beat Ferenc Sudo and in 1973 when Xi Enting won against Kjell Johansson. The Japanese have won the majority of finals against Europeans: four victories to one loss; the one European success being in Nagoya when Stellan Bengtsson beat Shigeo Itoh.
On three occasions players have lost in a final against a compatriot and have then won on the next occasion they have met. In 1991 Jorgen Persson gained revenge over Jan-Ove Waldner against whom he had lost in 1989. Similarly in 1959, Ichiro Ogimura won the title against Toshiaki Tanaka and in 1932 Victor Barna won his first victory beating Miklos Szabados. In the preceding world championships both Ichiro Ogimura and Victor Barna had lost to their colleagues.
Five titles each
In modern times China and Europe share the men's singles spoils. Europeans Jan-Ove Waldner (1989 and 1997), Jorgen Persson (1991), Jean-Philppe Gatien (1993) and Werner Schlager (2003) were all crowned world champions, while for China the five victories came from Jiang Jialiang (1987), Kong Linghui (1995), Liu Guoliang (1999) and Wang Liqin (2001 and 2003).
In the past 30 years out of a possible 320 medals available at the world championships in men 's singles and men's doubles event, Europe has won only 40 (12.5%). In the men's singles event Europe has 19, the most recent being the bronze medal won by Michael Maze in 2005 in Shanghai, whilst in the men's doubles the number is 19; the 19th being the silver medal captured by Timo Boll and Christian Suss, also in Shanghai.