Wait finally over for Fan Zhendong
Fan Zhendong’s 343-day wait to win the men’s singles title on the ITTF World Tour came to an end on Sunday 13th October in Bremen, as the Chinese world no. 2 defeated compatriot and world no. 1 Xu Xin to claim German Open glory (5-11, 11-8, 14-12, 11-7, 11-7).
Astonishingly this was Fan’s first singles title on the 2019 World Tour, his last victory tracing back to 4th November 2018 at the Swedish Open. Over the intervening period, the 22-year-old lost his world no. 1 position to Xu, who went on to rubberstamp his supremacy by picking up three consecutive gold medals at this year’s Japan, Korea and Australian Opens.
It had looked like Fan’s barren streak would continue when “Xu-perman” comfortably won the first game of today’s final in Bremen and had his sights set on equalling the record of four ITTF World Tour men’s singles titles in a calendar year.
However, Fan fought back in style to take the title, the 12th of his career in the ITTF World Tour men’s singles competition, to raise hopes that he is finally ready to kick on and put a difficult 2019 behind him.
“This is an enormously important victory for me. I am overjoyed to have won against Xu Xin. Since we know each other so well it’s really hard for me to surprise him with anything. I never let up, always put pressure on him until the last rally. I had a lot of fun here, especially with this great crowd.” – Fan Zhendong
Sun sets on Ito’s hopes of glory
Sun Yingsha celebrated her third women’s singles title of an excellent year so far on the ITTF World Tour. The Chinese teenage talent overcame Japan’s Mima Ito over five emphatic games (11-3, 9-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-4) to follow up her Japan and Australian Open victories with gold here in Germany.
Sun’s win confirms her status as the most successful performer from “Generation Z” during 2019, starting her campaign in Bremen second in the World Tour points standings, behind only world no. 1 Chen Meng (CHN). Sun has risen a remarkable 23 places in the last six months up to the no. 6 position.
The victory also means that fellow 18-year-old Mima Ito remains without a women’s singles title on this year’s ITTF World Tour. The world no. 7 and highest-ranked non-Chinese player in the women’s game, Ito was made to endure the heartbreak of a second final defeat in consecutive weeks, following her loss to Chen Meng last Sunday in Stockholm.
“I was pretty calm, as I had done a lot of practice before this match. I respect Ito, who is a very strong competitor, and I’m very happy that I could play well in this competition.” – Sun Yingsha
Chinese women’s 100% record ends
Korea Republic duo Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun became the first non-Chinese winners of a women’s event on this year’s ITTF World Tour, beating Japan’s Miyuu Kihara and Miyu Nagasaki to claim the women’s doubles title (11-5, 4-11, 11-9, 11-7).
“I am as happy as if I was flying in the sky! Our opponents overcame Chen Meng and Gu Yuting in the semi-final and we also lost to them last year. I think they will certainly be a big threat in the future. The doubles will be the first match in team competition at next year’s Olympics. It’s pretty important. In singles it will be difficult to beat the Chinese. We will try harder to play beyond our limits.” – Yang Haeun
In the men’s doubles final, Xu Xin and Liang Jingkun defeated Germany’s Benedikt Duda and Qiu Dang after the host nation’s unseeded pair took a shock lead and kept their highly fancied Chinese opponents on their toes throughout a highly competitive contest (11-13, 11-9, 11-9, 11-5).
Xu Xin also tasted mixed doubles success in his first ever partnership with Sun Yingsha. China’s two in-form athletes combined brilliantly in Bremen and saw off compatriots Wang Chuqin and Wang Manyu in the final (12-10, 11-7, 5-11, 11-7).
“I was playing with Sun Yingsha for the first time. I play with different partners and always adapt. I like to play with everyone. Younger players have less drag in their game and want to learn more.” – Xu Xin
Germans do host nation proud
Undoubtedly one of the surprise packages in Bremen, Benedikt Duda and Qiu Dang navigated their journey from the depths of the qualifying rounds all the way to silver medals, following a series of impressive wins over seeded opponents: Ho Kwan Kit / Lam Siu Hang (HKG), Jang Woojin / Jeoung Youngsik (KOR) and Chen Chien-An / Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE) before succumbing to the might of Xu Xin and Liang Jingkun (CHN) at the final hurdle.
While Duda and Qiu outperformed their seeded compatriots in the men’s doubles, Timo Boll and Patrick Franziska, the latter duo would make their mark in the singles competition, both advancing as far as the quarter-finals.
After his epic seven-game victory over Jun Mizutani (JPN), 38-year-old legend Boll fell to eventual champion Fan Zhendong, but his showing in Bremen will have done his chances of qualifying for the 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals no harm at all. Meanwhile, Franziska caused one of the upsets of the tournament in defeating 3rd seed Lin Gaoyuan (CHN) in just five games before exiting at the hands of Jeoung Youngsik (KOR).
It was also a week to remember for Germany’s Shan Xiaona, the world no. 96 defying her ranking to reach the women’s singles quarter-finals, comfortably knocking out Doo Hoi Kem (HKG) and Hitomi Sato (JPN) before losing out to Feng Tianwei (SGP) when she had led 3-0 before Feng’s epic fightback.
Prior to that classic encounter, Singaporean star Feng grabbed the headlines with her straight games victory over world no. 1 Chen Meng – arguably the biggest shock result of the entire event.
Last stop: Linz!
The 12th and final destination of the 2019 ITTF World Tour will be the Austrian Open, held between 12th – 17th November in Linz.
This represents the last opportunity for players to gain all-important World Tour points and confirm their places for the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals: the prestigious end-of-year showpiece event being staged between 12th – 15th December in Zhengzhou, China.