by Ian Marshall, Editor
A third meeting of the year, the balance of results in favour of Fan Zhendong having emerged successful when they met at the Asian Cup in Yokohama and at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour China Open in Shenzhen.
Solid, reliable, ever the master of the counter top spin art, Fan Zhendong made the better start, he led 6-3 but the verdict in the opening game went to Lin Gaoyuan, securing success at the second attempt.
Quick true to his trademark style, excelling over the table, in the second game Lin Gaoyuan went ahead 7-2 but he was not able to capitalize on the advantage. Making no unforced errors, from 7-10 down, Fan Zhendong won five points in a row to level matters.
Now, a mental battle faced Lin Gaoyuan; tactically, he needed to win the points quickly, in the rallies Fan Zhendong was always the favourite. In third game, Lin Gaoyuan again held the advantage, he held two game points at 10-8; again Fan Zhendong levelled at 10-all, before at the third attempt securing the game.
In two games, Lin Gaoyuan had surrendered five opportunities, not once had he called “Time Out”.
Now the momentum, having won two games by the minimal margin, was with Fan Zhendong. In the fourth game, different to the previous two, he made the better start. He established a 7-3 lead. It was never relinquished; now he had breathing space.
Focused, composed, Fan Zhendong, from parity at 4-all in the fifth game, asserted his authority. Lin Gaoyuan elected for “Time Out” when trailing 5-4. However, there was no stopping Fan Zhendong; at 10-6 he held four match points, he converted at the first attempt.
“I was not playing so badly in the first set, then in the second set I never gave up and finally won it and the whole match. I think that Timo Boll will be a very tough opponent and I will prepare as well as I can and do everything I can to win.” Fan Zhendong
Just as on his previous three appearances in the Liebherr Men’s World Cup, his debut being in Halmstad in 2015, a place in the final was reserved.