by Ian Marshall, Editor
Win and Ma Long will stand alone as the owner of the most ITTF World Tour men’s singles titles; presently he is listed alongside Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, with 27 such top prizes to his name.
The first time Ma Long won an ITTF World Tour men’s singles title came in 2007 in Kuwait when he beat compatriot Ma Lin in the final; the first occasion when he reached a final was in the Germany city of Magdeburg on Sunday 13th November 2005 when only 17 years old.
Significantly on that occasion, he lost to Vladimir Samsonov, the man whose record he aims to beat in Shenzhen; furthermore, he came within a whisker of success, he experienced defeat by the minimal two point margin in the deciding seventh game (6-11, 8-11, 11-3, 7-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-9).
Furthermore, had it not been for a gesture of sportsmanship and fair play in the vital deciding game, Ma Long may well already have been two ahead; the owner of 28 ITTF World Tour men’s singles titles, Vladimir Samsonov with one less, 26 in total.
At the semi-final stage Ma Long had beaten the local hero, Timo Boll; in the final the crowd had willed Vladimir Samsonov back to parity having trailed by three games to one. In the decider Ma Long led 7-6; a return from Vladimir Samsonov wide to the Ma Long forehand clipped the very edge of the table, the umpire believed the ball had missed and called the score 8-6. Immediately, Ma Long to his eternal credit, signalled the ball had touched, the score were adjusted to 7-all; now the crowd had a dilemma, who should they support?
“I thought it was the right thing to do.” Ma Long
At the time, just as now, Vladimir Samsonov was a favourite in Germany having played for Borussia Düsseldorf in the Bundesliga, Ma Long had shown himself to be a young man of high integrity; in a split second the teenager had gained the admiration and respect of all in the hot bed atmosphere. Ma Long was to lose but the ovation he received matched that of Vladimir Samsonov.
Now, the number to achieve is 28 overall; let us not forget that Vladimir Samsonov competes in Shenzhen, if he can find the form of 20 years ago when in the late 1990s he was it very best, he can make that number.
Wouldn’t it be something if they could meet again in Shenzhen in the final! Meet to decide the most successful ever; to date they are inseparable and they are inseparable. They are two great players, two living legends and most importantly in the best meaning of the world two truly remarkable sportsmen; our sport is richer for their presence.