by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
However, it was in equally dramatic circumstances. Trailing 7-10 and 11-12 in the fifth game Fan Zhendong saved four match points and then one more in the sixth at 8-10, before Ma Long eventually succeeded in six games (11-5, 11-4, 11-9, 7-11, 12-14, 11-9).
Success for Ma Long means that he is now out of sight, beyond the horizon; it is the fifth time he has won the coveted title, his nearest challenger is his now retired compatriot, Wang Liqin. He won three times.
“I’m very happy to win my fifth World Tour Grand Finals Men’s Singles title. I think I’m in quite good form during this tournament, especially in the final, I made it through the challenge of Fan Zhendong. I played well at the start but I did not deal with crucial points well enough when I was leading at the middle of the match. It was good enough to be able to win the match. I think it’s common for any athlete to become impatient when you reach match point and I made that mistake today. The good thing is I won the sixth. Of course I feel it was a pity to lose the fifth game with four match points on hand, but in the match, I have to control my emotion as much as possible”, Ma Long
Conversely for Fan Zhendong, the title is one that remains elusive but we must remember that he is only 19 years old and is in good company.
Consider the players in the modern era who have won the Women’s Singles title at the Olympic Games or at the World Championships; all have won at the Grand Finals.
It is not so with the men; Liu Guoliang never won the Grand Finals Men’s Singles title and, as yet, the coveted crown has not finished in the possession of Zhang Jike.
However, look at the other Chinese winners and it is the elite of the elite who have succeeded.
Ma Lin and Wang Hao each won on two occasions, the same number also possessed currently by Xu Xin; Kong Linghui and Liu Guozheng won one apiece.
An impressive list and to underline Chinese dominance; in now 21 editions of the tournament, China has provided 16 of the Men’s Singles winners
Furthermore, Doha was the 14th all Chinese Men’s Singles final.