by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Just two games surrendered by Ma Long since Moscow in 2010 in a World Team Championships, those being the previous day against Austria’s Robert Gardos; for Mattias Karlsson, a quite prodigious task awaited as he faced the reigning Olympic and World champion in the opening contest.
Great credit must go to Mattias Karlsson, as always he gave total commitment and challenged Ma Long in the rallies but in such situations the Chinese are always the favourites, the techniques being par excellence.
Notably, in the third game Mattias Karlsson came close, he saved three match points but saving a fourth proved a step too far. Ma Long prevailed (11-6, 11-5, 13-11).
“I was fully prepared for this match. Yesterday I had a three-two match. Mattias played very well. Sweden has the crowd behind them but also there are Chinese supporters here. Thank you for supporting us and also thanks to the Swedish supporters for supporting their team; it makes a fantastic match.” Ma Long
A brave effort by Mattias Karlsson, it was the same from Kristian Karlsson who held one game point at 10-9 in the opener before losing 13-11 and then with the backhand in full flow securing the second. The Swede had raised his level, in the next two games Fan Zhendong followed suit; imposing, he beat the gallant Kristian Karlsson in four games (13-11, 8-11, 11-3, 11-2) to give China a commanding lead.
“The first game was important for both of us, winning the first game helped me play smoothly. Every player has their own strengths, their own individual style. I think I played well in the rallies.” Fan Zhendong
China now one match away from a place in the final, in the same vein as his colleagues, Jon Persson rose to the occasion; after being somewhat overwhelmed in the opening game against Xu Xin, Jon Persson saved a total of three game point in the second but that was the nearest he came to causing an upset. Xu Xin prevailed in straight games (11-6, 13-11, 11-5) the place in the final was secured.
“I have played against Jon before so in both serve and receive I knew what to expect so I was quite confident.” Xu Xin
It is the 26th time China has reached the final of the Swaythling Cup since 1961 in Beijing; overall it was the 29th time that China has competed in the last four. Various systems over the years, there has not always been a semi-final as in the present system.