by Simon Daish
Kristian Karlsson had been the surprise player of the tournament leading up to day three, following victories against Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) and Simon Gauzy (FRA) in the Round of 16 and quarter-finals respectively.
The semi-finals opponent for Karlsson (14th seed) was top seed Fan Zhendong who had enjoyed comfortable wins over Gao Ning (SIN) and Jeoung Youngsik (KOR) in his main draw matches, and Fan was on his way to another positive result in the last four despite a strong showing from Karlsson.
Fan made the stronger start of the two players having taken games one and two with little trouble, but Karlsson began to show some of the quality that he had produced in the prior rounds of the event and pulled a game back to lower the games difference to 2-1.
Being the sole remaining European competitor left in the World Cup and the underdog of the tie, Karlsson was on the receiving end of a tremendous amount of support from the crowd and the Swede’s attacking play was at times breathtaking.
However, Fan is ranked second in the world for a reason and with every great shot his rival hit, the Chinese star had an answer and back-to-back game wins eventually saw the match end with a 4-1 scoreline (11-4, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7) in Fan’s favour.
Fan Zhendong is safely through to the final and after the match he took time to praise Kristian Karlsson’s ever improving performances:
“When I played against him few weeks ago it was a bit easier, but today it was harder because he has improved a lot particularly in this competition. But I was sure I would win” – Fan Zhendong (China).
The defeated Kristian Karlsson may not have been able to replicate the likes of fellow countrymen Jörgen Persson and Jan-Ove Waldner in claiming a World Cup title this time around, but Karlsson is happy with how he has played throughout the 2016 competition “The match was very special being the semi-final round with the fans always cheering. I enjoyed every moment of the match because of the atmosphere and I am happy to be a part of the championship.”