by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Victory for Yan An meant that he laid to rest the gremlins of his most recent appearance on the ITTF World Tour.
In parts of the world, Friday 13th is considered an unlucky day; for Yan An at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open in Stockholm, that proved to be the situation. In the second round of the Men’s Singles event he was beaten by the host nation’s Anton Källberg, a player who at the time was enjoying a period of outstanding form.
Yan An lost by the minimal two point margin in the deciding game, it was a forlorn young man who departed the Eriksdalshallen. Now in Budapest, it was a delighted athlete who ten days after his 24th birthday had won his second ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title in his fourth such final.
“It was a challenging final against my teammate. The moment I felt I could break through it was in the fourth game when I took the lead 7-5 and then 9-5 . I felt the strength in me to be able to win this final”, Yan An.
Always in the final, the adversary has been a colleague. In 2013, he had been the runner up in Qatar, losing to Ma Long; later in the year he emerged successful in Sweden, beating Fan Zhendong in the final before losing to Fan Zhendong in the 2014 Kuwait final.
Meanwhile, for Shang Kun it was his first appearance in an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles final. He became the 31st player when on duty for China to reach an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles final; victory for Yan An added to the long list of successes.
“Congratulation to Yan An. I am happy with my performance throughout the competition. I took the matches step by step and I was in the final. I could have made some better decisions in the first and the sixth games which were crucial in the end but again I am really happy all in all”, Shang Kun.
It was the 93rd time in what is now 313 ITTF World Tour tournaments that China has provided the winner of the Men’s Singles event; it is the 139th occasion that an all-Chinese final has been the scenario. Nothing new but there was a unique factor; it was the first time ever that two players who had been required to compete in the qualification tournament had contested the final.
Furthermore, including the qualification tournament, Yan An and Shang Kun became the first players ever, to compete on each of a six day period! The top step of the podium was well earned!