by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
A safe first attack then keep the ball on the table for one more stroke than your opponent, Fan Zhendong is the modern day master; that skill was most prevalent as proceedings commenced.
Safe and sure, Fan Zhendong established a 5-3 lead in the opening game; it was an advantage he never relinquished.
Conversely in the second game, Dimitrij Ovtcharov emerged the prominent player in the early exchanges; he went ahead 6-2 but was not able maintain the advantage. Fan Zhendong won the next four points before Dimitrij Ovtcharov moved into an 8-6 and 9-7 lead; focused Fan Zhendong playing error free won the next four pints. He led by two games to nil.
It was to prove a crucial stage of the contest. Playing at the level we witnessed in the Men’s Singles final when facing compatriot, Ma Long at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships, Fan Zhendong moved up a gear. In the third game he went ahead 9-6, Dimitrij Ovtcharov having taken a “Time Out” when down one point at 6-5. At 10-7, Fan Zhendong held three game points, at the first attempt he converted.
The momentum was now with Fan Zhendong; to his great credit Dimitrij Ovtcharov fought for every point against a player who was increasing in confidence. He trailed 5-7 before levelling matters at 8-all; then came a golden opportunity, he went ahead 10-8, two game points, it was not to be for Germany. Fan Zhendong captured the next four points, the title was secured.
“I’m very happy with my victory, having played well in the final against Ovtcharov. I lost the last time we played at the German Open, so I’m really happy to win against him this time round. The first few games was tight but I was bold at the crucial moments.” Fan Zhendong
Fan Zhendong becomes the eighth Chinese player to win the Men’s Singles title at an ITTF World Tour Grand Finals; he follows in the footsteps of Kong Linghui, Liu Guozheng, Ma Lin, Ma Long, Wang Hao, Wang Liqin and Xu Xin.