by Ian Marshall, Editor
Thus Fan Zhendong, Ma Long and Koki Niwa are guaranteed invitations to the ITTF Men’s World Cup to be staged later in the year. Tomokazu Harimoto, who last year had beaten Koki Niwa in the contest for fifth place (11-9, 10-12, 11-6, 11-5, 10-12, 6-11, 12-10), can also anticipate being summoned to the prestigious tournament.
“Last year in the same venue, I won; this year I won here again. I am very happy. I did not perform really well in the first three games. I was a bit conservative at that time but from the beginning of fourth game, I entered into the rhythm that I wanted. It was a tough match, especially against Ma Long, happy that finally I made it.” Fan Zhendong
A second success for Fan Zhendong in what was overall his fifth Asian Cup final. In addition to last year, he had finished in runners up spot in 2014 in Wuhan, on that occasion significantly losing to Ma Long. Later in 2015 in Jaipur and in 2017 in Ahmedabad, he experienced respective defeats at the hands of colleagues Xu Xin and Lin Gaoyuan.
In addition, Fan Zhendong now becomes only the fourth player to complete a successful title retention. Colleague Wang Hao won in 2005 in New Delhi and in 2006 in Kobe; Ma Long in 2008 in Sapporo and in 2009 in Hangzhou. Impressive but the master is Xu Xin. Following his success in 2015 in Jaipur, he won the following year in Dubai, having earlier succeeded in 2012 in Guangzhou and 2013 in Hong Kong.
Meanwhile for Ma Long it was a rather different situation; his fifth Asian Cup final, his first defeat in the tournament. Additional to his success in 2014, as well as previously in 2008 and 2009, he had won in 2008 in Sapporo.
Furthermore, although Fan Zhendong and Ma Long are close rivals, players of the highest equal stature, since they first met in the final of the 2014 Asian Cup; in world ranking events, in what is now 16 meetings, it is only the second time Fan Zhendong has prevailed. The one prior encounter was in the men’s singles final at the 2016 ITTF World Tour China Open.
Qualification for the forthcoming ITTF Men’s World Cup; those who competed on the concluding day of action in Yokohama are all strong candidates for places.
Korea Republic’s Lee Sangsu, the no.3 seed, beat Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting, the no.7 seed (11-9, 11-7, 5-11, 11-3, 6-11, 11-7) to secure seventh spot; in the contest for fifth position, Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju, the no.5 seed, overcame India’s Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, the no.10 seed (11-4, 11-8, 11-8, 14-12).
The ITTF Men’s World Cup will be staged in Chengdu from Friday 25th to Sunday 27th October.