15 Dec 2019

China’s Fan Zhendong and Chen Meng ended the year in style, winning the men’s singles and women’s singles titles respectively on Sunday 15th December at the Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.

Fan defeated Ma Long (11-6, 12-10, 11-6, 6-11, 11-8) to reclaim the crown he first won in 2017 after Chen Meng overcame Wang Manyu (11-9, 11-6, 11-6, 9-11, 11-6) to seal a record-equalling third straight women’s singles title at a Grand Finals. Both Fan and Chen have made sure that they will end 2019 on top of the world rankings.

Japanese teenagers Miyuu Kihara and Miyu Nagasaki scooped women’s doubles gold medals, as Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin claimed the men’s doubles crown. World Champions Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen reigned supreme in the mixed doubles.

The four-day event held in Zhengzhou, China, brings the curtain down on the 2019 international table tennis calendar. The annual showpiece marks one of the sport’s most prestigious tournaments, offering prize money of up to $1,001,000.

Fan Zhendong finishes year on high

Fan Zhendong was crowned the 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals men’s singles champion after he defeated Ma Long with a first-class performance in the final between two of China’s undisputed heavyweights, a result that ensures the 22-year-old will overtake compatriot Xu Xin at the top of the world ranking heading into 2020.

In what was anticipated to be perhaps a closer contest, given Ma’s pedigree as the most decorated male player in table tennis history, second seed Fan took less than 53 minutes to finish off the battle over five games.

31-year-old Ma had missed a golden opportunity to level the scores, when he led 12-10 in the second game, but Fan roared back to win four points in a row to take control of the match – a position of strength that he never looked likely to surrender, especially when you consider his almighty form leading up to the final.

Fan had won the two most recent men’s singles titles on the ITTF World Tour at October’s German Open and November’s Austrian Open, before landing his third career Men’s World Cup crown at the start of December.

With victory today in Zhengzhou, he has doubled his tally of Grand Finals men’s singles successes, reclaiming the title he first won in 2017 in Astana. His quarter-final exit at last year’s event in Incheon at the hands of Brazil’s Hugo Calderano and his 343-day wait for an ITTF World Tour singles title until the 2019 German Open seem a distant memory indeed.

Fan exacted his revenge on Calderano at the same stage of this year’s competition, winning in five games (12-10, 11-5, 11-7, 5-11, 11-9) in between his opening day 4-0 victory over Germany’s Timo Boll and a 4-2 win against compatriot Lin Gaoyuan (11-7, 11-13, 11-3, 11-3, 9-11, 11-3) in the semi-final, before his imperious display against Ma Long in the final.

“It is never easy to play against Ma Long. As you saw, he played at a very high level on Saturday. I just focused on myself and played very patiently. I gave my best. As you know, I have experienced a lot of ups and downs this year. I learnt a lot of lessons from this period and I hope I can turn these lessons to my fortune.” – Fan Zhendong

Despite missing out on what would have been his sixth Grand Finals men’s singles title, this has been a week that Ma Long will remember fondly in the main. “The Dragon” put world no.1 and top seed Xu Xin to the sword in Saturday’s epic semi-final (11-7, 16-14, 11-7, 4-11, 4-11, 11-6) after clawing his way back from the precipice of defeat against another compatriot Liang Jingkun in one of the event’s most gripping clashes (9-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-4, 8-11, 11-9, 11-8).

The spirit and quality shown by Ma over the course of the weekend provided a timely reminder of why the reigning World Champion and record holder in terms of ITTF World Tour men’s singles titles (28) had been voted 2019 Male Table Tennis Star at Wednesday night’s ITTF Star Awards ceremony in Zhengzhou.

“As you know, I have been recovering from injury for some months. I have been through a lot this year, but this event was very encouraging for me back on court.” – Ma Long

Chen Meng makes history

Chen Meng celebrated her third consecutive ITTF World Tour Grand Finals women’s singles title, beating her Chinese compatriot Wang Manyu 4-1 in Sunday’s final (11-9, 11-6, 11-6, 9-11, 11-6).

Success in Zhengzhou followed Chen’s triumphs in Astana in 2017 and Incheon in 2018, thus equalling the feat achieved only once before in the history of the competition, by Liu Shiwen (2011, 2012, 2013). This also rounds off an extremely impressive year for the 25-year-old, who collected four women’s singles gold medals on the 2019 ITTF World Tour, winning the Hungarian, China, Korea and Swedish Opens.

World no.1 Chen incidentally defeated Liu in an epic quarter-final clash on Friday that went the full seven-game distance, having survived the scare of a first-round exit to Qian Tianyi, recovering from 1-3 down by winning the next three games.

Chen, seeded third in Zhengzhou, also eliminated the second seed, Japan’s Mima Ito, in Saturday’s semi-final (10-12, 11-8, 11-5, 13-11, 13-11) to set up her showdown with Wang Manyu.

Wang had enjoyed an impressive run to her debut Grand Finals women’s singles final, dropping just one game across victories over 2016 champion Zhu Yuling (4-0), Chen Xingtong (4-1) and Wang Yidi (4-1).

“I have not played against her (Wang Manyu) for the past half year. It was a tough match. We are both in good condition. After a tricky first game, I managed to adjust myself and settle into the match. I am happy to win three consecutive Grand Finals titles. I experienced some ups and downs in the last six months. This title for sure will give me more confidence towards next season. I will fight really hard hopefully to get qualified for Tokyo 2020.” – Chen Meng

Japanese teenage duo crowned women’s doubles champions

Miyuu Kihara and Miyu Nagasaki won the 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals women’s doubles title after the Japanese top seeded pair struck a comprehensive, straight games victory over second seeds Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun of Korea Republic in Sunday’s final (12-10, 11-6, 11-6).

The victory continues the remarkable success story of Kihara and Nagasaki, aged only 15 and 17 respectively, who were crowned World Junior Champions only two weeks ago after claiming gold medals at November’s Austrian Open.

The dynamic duo stole headlines on Friday when they staged an incredible fightback to inflict defeat on the reigning World Champions, Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu (3-11, 4-11, 11-3, 14-12, 14-12). That had followed yet another spirited showing to come back from 1-2 down to beat Barbora Balazova and Hana Matelova over five games in the opening round.

“I did not expect that we could win here. We performed well today. We really focused on the match and played with great concentration on every ball.” – Miyuu Kihara

“We won the World Junior Championships and now we have won the World Tour Grand Finals. I am so happy. I hope I can play better in the future so everyone can know and remember my name.” – Miyu Nagasaki

No match for men’s doubles champions Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin

The top two ranked players in the men’s singles competition, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin’s impressive doubles partnership yielded gold in the 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals men’s doubles competition.

The Chinese duo, second seeds, defeated seventh seeds Liao Cheng-Ting and Lin Yun-Ju of Chinese Taipei in Sunday’s final (11-7, 11-6, 11-13, 11-3), having recorded straight games victories over compatriots, Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan, and Ho Kwan Kit and Wong Chun Ting of Hong Kong, China.

Silver medallists in Zhengzhou, Liao and Lin enjoyed a fine run themselves after eliminating the top seeds, Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu, in the first round.

“Our opponents were very strong. They beat top pairs in the previous rounds, so we were fully prepared for this tough match. I am happy that we won.” – Fan Zhendong

Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen lead mixed doubles entries for Tokyo 2020

World Champions, Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen of China sealed mixed doubles gold at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals after fighting back from 0-2 down to defeat Japan’s Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito in Saturday’s thrilling final (9-11, 6-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-9).

“We didn’t find our rhythm at the beginning of the match and that is why we were 0-2 down. My partner (Xu Xin) was not in the best condition, as he finished his match very late last night.” – Liu Shiwen

“They (Mizutani and Ito) are very strong. They played really well today. We feel lucky to win this title. It gives us more confidence about Tokyo 2020. We need to keep making progress and try to widen our advantage.” – Xu Xin

The four semi-finalists in this year’s Grand Finals mixed doubles competition had the added incentive of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The other two pairs to book their tickets to Tokyo were Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei alongside Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem of Hong Kong China, both of whose journeys in Zhengzhou ended with straight games semi-final defeats, but they can look forward to taking part in next summer’s showpiece in the Japanese capital.

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Day 4 - Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals