by Simon Daish
Ma Long was the victor in the Olympic Men’s Singles final, but Zhang Jike had beaten the world number one on this year’s ITTF World Tour at the 2016 Kuwait Open.
Zhang Jike has proven to be a crowd-pleaser at the 2016 China Open and the fan support he has received in Chengdu can only be described as spectacular. However, Ma Long is also a home player and with every rally he won came loud cheers for the first seed.
The opening game fell to Zhang Jike, but a great response from his compatriot Ma Long soon saw the lead change hands.
Game four was a good example of Zhang’s world class ability as he levelled the tie, yet for every stunning shot his rival could produce, Ma still found a way to take the next game to go 3-2 up.
Intensity levels reached a new high as Zhang Jike won the sixth end to force a decider, but it was not to be for the former Grand Slam winner as Ma Long raised his play to seal the match (6-11, 11-9, 11-9, 3-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-5).
“Fans are coming to support us not only for the win or loss, but they also want to see our best performance during the match. Competitive sports will always have a winner, but it’s okay for me. I will try my best in the Men’s Doubles final” – Zhang Jike (China).
Following the succssful result for Ma Long he was asked if he felt more relaxed about playing Zhang Jike at the China Open than in the Olympic final, “Actually I do not feel that,” said Ma.
“Even though I won 4-0 in Rio, the first game was crucial. If Zhang Jike had won the first game, he may have won 4-0 against me.” Ma Long added, “The bigger the event is, the more pressure we will feel. The China Open is not bigger than Rio 2016, but every match is still very important.”
Sunday 18th September: Men’s Singles – Main Draw