by Simon Daish
China has been treated to some wonderful Table Tennis over the past five days in Chengdu, but Fan Zhendong delivered a masterclass performance to claim a clean sweep win against Ma Long in the final of the Men’s Singles tournament.
The semi-finals had been slightly kinder to Fan Zhendong than Ma Long; Fan only needed six ends to eliminate Xu Xin, while Ma required the full distance to see off Zhang Jike.
However, Ma Long had been consistently stronger than Fan Zhendong on the World Tour circuit having won all previous three encounters (2014 China Open, 2015 Kuwait Open, 2016 Qatar Open) and so naturally Ma entered the final with the psychological advantage.
While a 4-0 scoreline may sound like the players were worlds apart in the match, the fact of the matter is that the majority of the games were actually decided by very narrow margins.
Just two points was the difference in games one and two, with game three also only just going to Fan. The fourth game though saw Fan Zhendong finish off his opponent in style, thundering to a sensational straight games win over Ma Long (11-9, 13-11, 11-8, 11-5).
“Ma Long is a very strong opponent, I have learned a lot from him. I’m really happy to win! Tomorrow we will head to Anshan for the National Championships and then to Germany for the World Cup. I’m very lucky I can attend the World Cup. I will keep going” – Fan Zhendong (China).
Last year at the 2015 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, Fan Zhendong came to within inches of beating Ma Long but blew a 6-3 lead in the seventh end to narrowly miss out on the title. Now just under a year later Fan has finally overcome Ma, showing just how far the teenager has come since that 2015 Grand Finals defeat.
Ma Long on the other hand will be disappointed to pick up his first 4-0 defeat (not including Ma Long’s withdrawal due to injury at the 2014 Qatar Open) on the World Tour since the 2008 China Open.
Sunday 18th September: Men’s Singles – Main Draw