The 2013 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open is in the semifinal stages. We saw the withdrawal of last weeks Kuwait Open champion, Zhang Jike, in the quarterfinals part way through his match with Yan An when he retired with a back injury. Yan An was leading the match 2-0 already. Make sure you check out Ben's article on Yan An being the one to watch in 2013, he might be onto something!
Of course Yan An will meet Wang Hao in his semifinal match, Wang Hao a much more experienced player and one of the few chinese players who has been very solid in the face of foreign opposition. Yan An as Ben mentions has performed very well in the few World Tour events he has played in, but he has always struggled at the barriers of the other top Chinese National Team players. Personally I don't know if Yan An will be able to pull of a win here, I think Wang Hao is experienced enough to hold off the younger player. My best guess is a 4-2 win for Wang Hao, but I think we will be seeing Wang Hao in the finals.
Of course in the other semifinal two guns go head to head in a duel! Ma Long and Xu Xin will face off. In Kuwait the result of the match between these two was phenomenal. Xu Xin capturing just 21 points in the match as Ma Long dominated in straight sets. I wonder if this a result which could be repeated. Ma Long was certainly on form in the match, I was surprised he lost the final to Jike after watching that semifinal. I think Ma Long will win this semifinal, I think he will win it comfortably, however not as comfortably as last time, I'm expecting Xu Xin to win at least a set this time, but I think a clear margin for Ma Long.
So I predict a Ma Long v Wang Hao final from here. Ma Long has always performed against Wang Hao, however it is usually Jike we see competing with Wang Hao in final stages. I think judging on all performances that we will see Ma Long picking up the title in Qatar and that may just see Ma Long go back into the world number 1 position come March, especially if he beats WR 1. Xu Xin on this second occasion and after Zhang Jike's withdrawal.
Either way we have some exciting matches ahead!