by Ian Marshall, Editor
Success means that Fan Zhendong progresses to the final for the third consecutive year; in 2017 he was beaten by colleague Lin Gaoyuan in the title decider in Ahmedabad before reversing the decision last year in Yokohama.
Moreover, it means he becomes only the second player to reach three consecutive men’s finals; the only other is Xu Xin who was the runner up in 2011 in Changsha before winning in 2012 in Guangzhou and again in 2013 in Hong Kong.
“Although I won 4-1, the match was not easy. Every game was really close. I lost to him last year at the Asian Cup, so today I changed my mindset. I just told myself to play point by point, no matter if I was leading or behind. He has made a lot of progress and became more mature. I am very happy that the foreign players are of higher level and becoming more and more challenging. This is the last tournament before World Championships. So far I feel better and better. Last year I was champion here; this year, I hope I can defend my title.” Fan Zhendong
A third consecutive Asian Cup final for Fan Zhendong, for Ma Long it is a fourth as he returns to the international scene; the one salutary fact being that on each occasion he emerged victorious, he won in 2008 in Sapporo, the following year in Hangzhou, before succeeding in 2011 in Changsha and in 2014 in Wuhan.
“I became more confident after winning the Qatar Open last week. I am in a better condition now. Team Japan is our biggest opponent now. Every time when I face a Japanese player, I hope I can give my best to win. No doubt Fan Zhendong is the toughest opponent; for me, I do not have too much pressure, just well prepared and play point by point.” Ma Long
A top three finish and a place in the ITTF Men’s World Cup to be staged later in the year in Chengdu beckons; no doubt it will also beckon for the players who contest fifth to eighth positions. In the play-off matches for those places there were upsets. Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju, the no.9 seed, beat Korea Republic’s Lee Sangsu, the no.3 seed (6-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 9-11, 11-7); India’s Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, the no.10 seed, accounted for Chinese Taipei’s Wong Chun Ting, the no.7 seed (12-10, 10-12, 11-5, 11-6, 11-8).
“It was a big win. It is my first time winning against a top 10 player in an international tournament. I think it is the biggest win in my career so far. I am very happy. I am looking forward to playing Lin Yun-Ju tomorrow. He is also a strong player.” Sathiyan Gnanasekaran
On the concluding day of action, Sunday 7th April, play starts at 10.00 am with the contests for seventh and eighth positions. The third place match follows the positional contests and is scheduled for 1.45 pm on Sunday 7th April, it will be followed by the gold medal contest at 4.00 pm (all local times).