by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
He now faces Fan Zhendong, likewise from China in the final. In the counterpart semi-final, Fan Zhendong, the no.2 seed, accounted for the host nation’s Jun Mizutani, the no.4 seed (11-7, 11-6, 12-10, 9-11, 11-8)
In the contest between Ma Long and Xu Xin, it was the latter who made the better start. He won the opening game, Ma Long never able to find a rhythm. However, Ma Long after saving one game point secured the second to level matters; the rallies were brief, neither player able to assert their authority. It was the same in the third game won by Ma Long; Xu Xin paying the price for errant forehand top spins.
Establish an early advantage, relax that vital fraction, execute the first attack that split second sooner and then assert authority. It was the situation for Xu Xin in the third game; it was even more so for Ma Long in the fifth. He won eight of the first ten points, eventually securing the game 10-5, after Xu Xin threatened to launch one of his legendary recoveries.
Somewhat conversely in the sixth game, neither player was able to establish gain an early commanding lead until from 4-all, Ma Long moved ahead to 7-4; Xu Xin called “Time Out”. It was to no avail, at 10-4 Ma Long held six match points, one was saved, not a second.
Success for Ma Long, it was the same for Fan Zhendong in a contest where in the early part of the match Fan Zhendong was too powerful in the counter top spin rallies; it took time for Jun Mizutani to adapt.The first two games went the way of Fen Zhendong, a lead established. In the third game Jun Mizutani took more risks, he strained every sinew to mount an early first attack but at 10-8 Fan Zhendong held two game points, Jun Mizutani saved both but at 11-10 he could not repeat the achievement.
Now Fan Zhendong, leading three-nil, was full of confidence; he won the first three points of the fourth game, Jun Mizutani called “Time Out”. Jun Mizutani three of the next six points, Qin Zhijian, the Chinese Men’s Team national coach sitting courtside, called for a break. Jun Mizutani fought for the cause, he levelled at 8-all, at 10-9 he held game point; he seized the chance.
“I expected that it wouldn’t be an easy match, as Mizutani is playing on home ground and he was playing very aggressive today. I had a good start to the match, and was in control especially in games two, three and five. Game four was not easy, losing the game after leading at the start. He was attacking aggressively in that game and I made some errors.” Fan Zhendong
Now the crowd was alive; Jun Mizutani continued his quick attacking policy; again as in the previous game matters were level at 8-all but on this occasion he was not able to capitalize on the advantage.
The next three points went to Fan Zhendong, Japanese hopes were over.