Xu Xin beaten by Ma Long
Photo By: Rémy Gros
2011 Austrian Open - ITTF Pro Tour
Ma Long and Zhang Jike emerged successful in the all Chinese Menís Singles semi-final duels at the Austrian Open in Schwechat on Sunday 25th September 2011.
Centre stage, recently crowned World champions faced each other in gladiatorial battle and the incumbent World Champion crossed swords with the current Olympic champion.
Xu Xin faced Ma Long, Ma Lin confronted Zhang Jike; at the end of the contests it was victory for one player straining every sinew to book a place in the 2012 Olympic Games and for one already assured of witnessing a London summer.
Ma Long is a main challenger for the third place spot in the Chinese Men's Team at the London Olympics, Zhang Jike has already qualified.
Together at the GAC GROUP 2011 World Championships in Rotterdam, Ma Long and Xu Xin had proved imperious; they won the Menís Doubles title.
In Schwechat, when pitted at opposite ends of the table, there was little to choose.
A full distance seven games duel was the order of the day; Ma Long won 7-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-5, 9-11, 11-4, 11-4.
However, when Zhang Jike, the man who won the Menís Singles crown in Rotterdam earlier this year in May, confronted Ma Lin, the gold medallist in the Menís Singles event at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, it was a different story.
Zhang Jike, flowing like a Rolls Royce in cruise control, posted a four straight games victory. He won 11-5, 12-10, 11-5, 11-7.
In extolling the doubles art, the left handed penhold grip style of Xu Xin is the perfect foil for the right handed shaekhands grip formula of Ma Long; furthermore, the form of Xu Xin, with his incredibly strong legs that facilitates outstanding sideways movement, is a technique with which few can cope.
Notably European players find the style of Xu Xin most difficult to manage.
The semi-final contest in Schwechat could have gone either way but if the task at breakfast on the concluding day of play was to predict a winner, then Ma Long may just have been the hairís breadth favourite.
Prior to the meeting in Schwechat, the duo had met on eight previous occasions in international play; the advantage being with Ma Long.
He had won five of the contests but more pertinently, when the pair had met in 2011, honours had been shared.
In February Xu Xin succeeded in their semi-final encounter in the Menís Singles event at the Qatar Open, the following week Ma Long prevailed in their third round duel in the United Arab Emirates.
History gave Ma Long a slight advantage but in the case of Zhang Jike and Ma Lin, the former had a clear advantage.
The pair had met on seven occasions in international competition prior to the confrontation in Schwechat; Zhang Jike had won five of those battles.
Advantage Zhang Jike
At the Austrian Open, it was their first international meeting of the year but in 2010, of the five meeting, Ma Lin won only one.
In February he prevailed in their Menís Singles semi-final encounter at the Salwa Cup Kuwait Open but one month earlier at the Pro Tour Grand Finals in Macao and one week earlier in Doha at the Qatar Open, Zhang Jike had emerged victorious.
Later in the year in March he won when they duelled at the Asian Cup and in August he succeeded at the MenĎs Singles final at the Harmony China Open in Suzhou.
One round earlier in Schwechat he prevailed again; in Suzhou it had been a nerve tingling seven games victory over Ma Lin, in Austria much more comprehensive, most impressive.