by Ian Marshall, Editor
After departing Stockholm just under a year ago, he won the Men’s Singles title at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals; then in 2018, he has succeeded at the Asian Cup, the Liebherr Men’s World Cup, whilst also remaining unbeaten at the Liebherr World Team Championships in Hamstad on the opposite coast of Sweden.
Additionally, on the Seamaster ITTF World Tour he won this year in Hungary and Qatar.
In Stockholm, the counter top spin capabilities were as sharp as ever, Fan Zhendong secured the opening game, before doubling the advantage to win the second, after saving game point on three occasions.
Fan Zhendong now had a clear advantage but at 4-7 in the third game he was three points in arrears. He levelled at 8-all. However, at 10-9 it was game point to Xu Xin; once again, just as in the previous game an opportunity was presented, an opportunity was spurned. Fan Zhendong won the game and held a three-nil lead; in the second and third games, Xu Xin had possessed a total of four games points, not one had been converted.
Undoubtedly, securing close second and third games added to the Fan Zhendong confidence bank. In the fourth game he established an 8-4 lead, Xu Xin recovered to level at 9-all, then had another chance; this time the opportunity was seized, as a Fan Zhendong forehand flew long, the name of Xu Xin was on the scoreboard.
A respite for Xu Xin but it was only brief, in the fifth game Fan Zhendong led 9-5, he lost the next point, he called “Time Out” no doubt to steady any nerves, bringing mind, body and soil together. Initially the break worked in favour of Xu Xin, he won the next two points but at 10-8 it was to championship point to Fan Zhendong. Serving, Xu Xin saved the first, not the second, the decision of one year ago was reversed.
Notably it was for Fan Zhendong, his fifth appearance in an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles final in Stockholm. In 2014 he beat Fang Bo in the final, in 2015 Xu Xin; in 2013 he experienced defeat at the hands of colleague Yan An, last year when again confronting Xu Xin.
Moreover, it means that Fan Zhendong matches Wang Liqin as the most successful player in the Men’s Singles event at a Swedish Open since Zarko Dolinar, then representing Yugoslavia, succeeded in 1954; Wang Liqin won in 1999 in Karlskrona, 2001 in Skovde and 2003 in Malmö.
“I didn’t realise I have won three times; for sure I am very excited to have won again. Thanks a lot to all to everyone who supported me. I am very happy to play here once again in Sweden. I think I can win more than three times; whatever I will try my best.” Fan Zhendong
Overall for Fan Zhendong it was his 17th appearance in an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles final, for Xu Xin, his 21st such excursion; for Fan Zhendong his 11th win, for Xu Xin the 10th time in runners up spot.