by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Throughout the contest Xu Ruifeng directed his attacking strokes towards the backhand of Masataka Morizono, well aware of the Japanese left handers potent forehand top spin.
Xu Ruifeng captured the first two games, when the Masataka Morizono service drifted long he seized the chance and appeared increasing comfortable in the passive game, able to block and control the play.
In the third game he established a 7-1 lead, it seemed he was in total command; it was at that stage he became too passive as Masataka Morizono displayed his fighting qualities. He reduced the deficit to one point at 9-8; Xu Ruifeng called “Time Out”; the break worked but to the advantage of Masataka Morizono. He won the next three points; the match deficit was now down to one game.
“My opponent had a great fighting spirit, it was not easy to win this match. He played very fast but I knew if I could cope with his speed I could win. I had more power than him and that gave me the advantage in the match.” Xu Ruifeng
Composed throughout Xu Ruifeng captured the fourth game, before in the fifth moving ahead 4-2; he was proving the more consistent player. Understandably, Masataka Morizono elected for “Time Out” but at 8-4 Xu Ruifeng had increased the gap to four points.
Once again, as in the third game, brave, the modern day “banana” backhand return of service from the forehand side of the table with forearm vertical and a flexible wrist circumnavigating the ball, Masataka Morizono recovered. The lethal forehand across the diagonal wide to his opponent’s forehand reaped dividends. He levelled at 9-all; then saved one match point before winning three in a row to secure the game.
Was a recovery on the cards? Was Xu Ruifeng, the persona calm but inside were nerves biting as he saw the winning post? He fought off the gremlins, at 10-7 in the sixth game he held three match points, at the second attempt he converted.
It was his first appearance in an ITTF World Tour or ITTF Challenge Series final; for Masataka Morizono his second and the same outcome; in 2014 he had been beaten in the title deciding contest in Spain by England’s Paul Drinkhall.