by Ian Marshall, Editor
Excelling over the table, taking the initiative at every opportunity, Liang Jingkun secured the first five points of the opening game, before Xu Xin made himself known, the long raking forehand announcing his presence. However, the gap was too great, as has happened so often in the past Xu Xin lost the opening game; it was time to play catch up.
Xu Xin duly obliged, he won the second game, to some extent nullifying the counter top spin skills of the barrel chested Liang Jingkun, an athlete of similar physical shape to the former Manchester City footballer, Francis Lee. He booted penalties with the same ferocity as Liang Jingkun executes forehands.
Immediately, just as in the first game, Liang Jingkun excelled over the table, the forehand released, he established a 6-1 lead, the gap was reduced to two points at 7-5 but that was the nearest Xu Xin came. Once again for Xu Xin it was catch up time.
Yet again Xu Xin responded but it was close, no inhibitions Liang Jingkun kept blasting away, all guns blazing; at 8-6 Xu Xin held a valuable lead but at 9-all it was parity. He secured the next two points, consistent, nothing expansive. Once again matters were level.
A key stage of the contest had been reached and once more Liang Jingkun took the lead; in the fifth game he established a 6-3 and 8-4 advantage but after taking a “Time Out” at 8-7, matters were level at 9-all. Xu Xin won the next point; then held another game point at 11-10 before Liang Jingkun won three in a row to secure the game.
Once again Xu Xin needed to perform a recovery; in the sixth game he established a 4-1 lead but at 6-5 the advantage was down the one point. He elected for “Time Out”. The break worked but in favour of Liang Jingkun, he won the next three points before Xu Xin levelled at 9-all and then held game point at 10-9. The point was saved, at 11-10, Xu Xin had another opportunity, again saved before at the third attempt he succeeded; for the third time in the match, Xu Xin had caught up.
A decisive seventh game beckoned; positive an understatement, Liang Jingkun, taking no prisoners led 5-1 at the change of ends, the successes being matched with deep throated yells in true Tomokazu Harimoto manner.
Full steam ahead, Xu Xin pinned to the court surrounds,Liang Jingkun established an 8-1 lead, the gap for Xu Xin, even for him the catch up king was too great. At 10-2 Liang Jingkun held eight match points, he converted, the contest ending in exhibition mode.
“I am very satisfied with my performance. It is my first victory on the ITTF World Tour and a great reward for all the work. Every player in Chinese national team is capable of winning such a tournament. I am glad that I could come out as the champion. Linz will have a special place in my heart; I must thank the crowd for the great support.” Liang Jingkun
Notably Xu Xin was making no less than his 25th appearance in an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles final, since first appearing in Minsk in 2008. At the time only 18 years old, he was beaten in the final by the host nation’s Vladimir Samsonov, the only occasion when reaching a final not losing to a Chinese compatriot. Impressively since that meeting a decade ago he has won 14 times; this year, it was the first time he had reached the final in Austria.