by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
At the semi-final stage of proceedings on the evening of Saturday 2nd June, Fan Zhendong, the top seed, beat Chinese National Team colleague, Lin Gaoyuan in six games (13-11, 11-6, 12-10, 9-11, 8-11, 11-6), prior to Ma Long, the no.5 seed, ending the aspirations of Korea Republic’s Lim Jonghoon (11-9, 11-3, 11-4, 10-12, 11-2).
Defeat for Lim Jonghoon at the hands of Ma Long, who was able to react to the 21 year olds every move, but the Korean can look back on a less than two week period that could prove a watershed in his career.
At the Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships in Halmstad he was a member of the Korea Republic squad but was very much in the fifth in line, in the role of reserve behind Lee Sangsu, Jeoung Youngsik, Jang Woojin and Kim Donghyun.
Now in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, on both occasions having been required to compete in the qualification tournament, Lim Jonghoon has reached the penultimate round and exceeded the performances of his colleagues.
If next week, the World Championships were to be re-enacted and it was a semi-final contest against Germany, would Korea Republic head coach, Kim Taeksoo, still select Jeoung Youngsik, Lee Sangsu and Jang Woojin?
A comprehensive win for Ma Long, it was a hard fought success for Fan Zhendong against his Men’s Doubles partner. The top seed was just too secure against the dynamic skills of the player who earlier in the day had created history by winning the Mixed Doubles title in harness with Chen Xingtong.
“I thought I played well but I failed to handle the critical points at the beginning of the match. I was a little tired.” Lin Gaoyuan
Notably it was the fourth occasion when Fan Zhendong and Lin Gaoyuan had met on the international scene but the first time when not in a final. The record is now three-one in favour of Fan Zhendong.
“I was tired after the first three games; then I did not concentrate fully. I took the lead in the first half of the fourth and fifth games, but Gaoyuan never gave up. It was a tough match. I made some adjustments at the sixth game.” Fan Zhendong
Previously he had prevailed at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Hyderabad and earlier this year at the ITTF Asian Cup in Yokohama; the one win for Lin Gaoyuan was at last year’s Asian Cup in Ahmedabad.
Now Fan Zhendong versus Ma Long, too close to call.