by Ian Marshall, Editor
Success for Fan Zhendong but he came perilously close to grief, at the semi-final stage, the top seed, he was stretched to the limit by Germany’s Timo Boll, the no.5 seed, being required to save three match points in the deciding seventh game (11-2, 4-11, 11-13, 5-11, 11-3, 11-5, 14-12).
Rather more comfortably in the final, Fan Zhendong overcame colleague and qualifier, Zhao Zihao (12-10, 11-6, 11-6, 11-5), the semi-final winner in opposition to Hugo Calderano, the no.4 seed (12-10, 11-6, 11-6, 11-5).
Three times a first
Victory for the top seed, victory for China; in the women’s singles final that was not the situation. Mima Ito, who commenced matters the no.3 seed, beat Zhu Yuling in the final to arrest the title (11-5, 16-18, 11-7, 13-11, 12-10).
A seventh career ITTF women’s singles title for Mima Ito but it was three firsts. First place for Mima Ito in Linz, her first such title of the year and the first ITTF World Tour women’s singles title in 2019 not won by a Chinese player.
In fact it is the first not won by a Chinese player since the first week of November 2018, when Mima Ito beat Zhu Yuling in the final in Sweden! On that occasion Mima Ito won in straight games (11-3, 11-3, 11-5, 11-8).
Notably the only semi-finalist not from China, Mima Ito ended the adventures of Qian Tianyi (11-6, 11-9, 11-9, 11-6), Zhu Yuling ousted Wang Yidi (11-8, 11-7, 9-1, 4-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-3). Both Qian Tianyi and Wang Yidi had started their journeys five days earlier in the qualification tournament.
Adding to collection
Meanwhile, securing the top step of the podium in Linz means that Fan Zhendong has now won 13 ITTF World Tour men’s singles titles, on the all-time list he is now level with colleague Wang Hao but has some distance to go to match the all time elite.
He trails Ma Long (28 wins) who leads the list ahead of Vladmir Samsonov of Belarus (27 wins) with Chinese colleagues Wang Liqin (21 wins) and Ma Lin (20 wins) in pursuit. Timo Boll is next on the list (19 wins) followed by Xu Xin, also from China (17 wins).
Runners up spot for Zhao Zihao but the eventual outcome was far better than anticipated; the progress made in the past year is quite remarkable. One year ago to the day, he won the men’s singles title at the 2018 ITTF Challenge Belgosstrakh Belarus Open, having some 24 hours earlier secured the under 21 men’s singles title.
Impressively, earlier, this year he was the runner up in Bulgaria, losing to Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto (11-6, 12-10, 11-5, 13-11, 13-15, 11-4); in Sweden he was a quarter-finalist suffering at the hands of the champion elect, colleague Wang Chuqin (11-6, 11-6, 11-7, 11-6).
Progress to the latter stages but that was not to be anticipated in Austria when his result in Germany is considered; he was beaten in the third preliminary round by Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi (13-11, 11-9, 11-8, 15-17, 11-4).
In Linz when facing another Brazilian it was a very different story; perhaps Hugo Calderano such employ Gustavo Tsuboi as his coach?