by Ian Marshall, Editor
The mission was to prove that whatever the no.11 seeded spot might have read, he is the best player on planet earth, the mission to extend his record in China, the mission to become the all-time most successful on the ITTF World Tour.
Victory meant, he won the China title for an eighth time, well ahead of his now retired nearest rivals, Wang Liqin who prevailed on six occasions, Ma Lin who emerged victorious five times. More significantly it was his 28th ITTF World Tour men’s singles title since he won in 2007 in Kuwait.
A record, he now moves one ahead of Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus with whom he shared top position prior to the gathering in Shenzhen; Vladimir Samsonov having won his first in 1996 in Italy, the inaugural year of the ITTF World Tour, his most recent in 2017 in Australia.
The records of both stand the test of time but I would suggest that the successes of Ma Long are somewhat very special. China is the powerhouse of that sport; that fact is undeniable, always when Ma Long has competed on the ITTF World Tour, his illustrious colleagues have always been present; to be the best, he has had to beat the best.
Notably of those now 28 wins, there are only four occasions when Ma Long has not beaten a compatriot in the final and those encounters have been against most worthy opponents. He overcame Vladimir Samsonov in the title deciding contest in Singapore in 2008 and in Berlin in 2016; in 2009 in Fredrikshavn he accounted for Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov to secure gold, in 2012 in Budapest his final victim was the Korea Republic’s Joo Saehyuk.
One ahead of Vladimir Samsonov but to secure the overall record, if we add the Challenge Series tournaments, which became a separate entity in 2017, Ma Long has still one to go; in that year Vladimir Samsonov won the men’s singles title on home soil at the ITTF Challenge Belarus Open.
Also, if Ma Long is to match his female counterpart, likewise he has one more rung of the ladder to climb, between 1998 and 2009, compatriot Zhang Yining won 29 ITTF World Tour women’s singles titles.
Furthermore, to be the overall most successful Ma Long has still to make strides. Compatriot Ma Lin is clear of the field, a staggering 59 ITTF World Tour titles. During his illustrious career he won 20 men’s singles titles and with various partners claimed 39 men’s doubles gold medals; for Ma Long he has 22 such men’s doubles top prizes, the overall aggregate 50 in number.
Just a mere 10 to go; the next mission, should not take long!