08 Jan 2020

Places amongst the last three names in each of the men’s singles and women’s singles events at stake on Friday 3rd January at the 2020 Marvellous 12, the player to attract the attention in the Chinese city of Shenzhen was Zhou Qihao.

He beat Ma Long, the reigning Olympic and World champion, on a day of sheer theatre and tense contests in the six matches enacted.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

In fact of the six matches played, only one did not require the full seven games to determine the outcome; that almost followed suit. Fan Zhendong needed six games to end the hopes of Lin Gaoyuan.

Fan Zhendong bt Lin Gaoyuan 9-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-6, 9-11, 11-2

The success for Fan Zhendong somewhat followed his form in recent months; in July he had beaten Lin Gaoyuan at the T2 Diamond in Johor Bahru but had then in September experienced defeat at the ITTF-ATTU Asian Championships in Yogyakarta and the following month at the ITTF World Tour Swedish Open in Stockholm.

However, in December at the Agricultural Bank of China ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, Fan Zhendong had turned the tables.

Fan Zhendong ready, as Lin Gaoyuan (nearest camera) serves (Photo: Tencent Sports)
Star turn

Success for Fan Zhendong but the star turn was Zhou Qihao, the young man who one day after his 14th birthday on Sunday 13th January 2011, won the boys’ singles title at the 2010 ITTF World Cadet Challenge staged at the Convention Centre in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Zhou Qihao bt Ma Long 11-7, 7-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 2-11, 11-6

Now approaching a decade later, he captured the biggest scalp of all; such is the time that can be needed to move from promising cadet to world class player.

Defeat for Ma Long but he was philosophical; he told his supporters he was in good health and no need to worry.

Ma Long (furthest from camera) on the receiving end from Zhou Qihao (Photo: Tencent Sports)
Narrowest of margins

A tense contest but in terms of drama that was reserved to the contest between Xu Xin and Liang Jingkun; true to his reputation, Xu Xin did not make the best of starts, he lost the opening two games before recovering to gain success by the narrowest of possible margins.

Xu Xin bt Liang Jingkun 7-11, 11-13, 11-6, 11-4, 10-12, 11-8, 13-11

Thus he reversed the decision of their most recent meeting on the international stage; last year in the first week of October, he had lost to Liang Jingkun at the quarter-final stage at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open.

Xu Xin beat Liang Jingkun by the very narrowest of margins (Photo: Tencent Sports)
Olympic champion falls

Defeat for the reigning Olympic champion in the men’s singles event, it was the same in the women’s singles. Ding Ning suffered at the hands of Zhu Yuling, a contest between two players who in 2019, by their standards, did not experience the best of fortunes; neither won an ITTF World Tour women’s singles title.

Zhu Yuling bt Ding Ning 11-6, 11-9, 11-1, 8-11, 7-11, 9-11, 11-7

Success for Zhu Yuling was somewhat of a surprise, in seven world ranking events she has only ever beaten Ding Ning on one occasion; the final at the 2015 ITTF World Tour China Open in Chengdu.

Ding Ning beaten by Zhu Yuling (Photo: Tencent Sports)
Minimal margin

A close call but in the women’s singles event, the closest was that experienced by Sun Yingsha against Wang Manyu; a player who has become both a close team mate and an arch rival.

Sun Yingsha bt Wang Manyu 11-9, 3-11, 11-6, 11-8, 6-11, 8-11, 11-9

It was their fourth meeting of the year, Sun Yingsha had lost when they met at the quarter-final stage in April at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest but then later in the year Sun Yingsha had prevailed on the ITTF World Tour in Japan and Australia as well as at the ITTF-ATTU Asian Championships.

Wang Manyu experienced defeat at the hands of Sun Yingsha (Photo: Tencent Sports)
Ebbed and flowed

Hard fought, it was no different for Chen Meng, the winner of four ITTF World Tour women’s singles titles in 2019 in addition to the Grand Finals.

Chen Meng bt Chen Xingtong 3-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 5-11, 11-6

In a contest that ebbed and flowed, she overcome Chen Xingtong and thus repeated the success of last year on the ITTF World Tour in China; on that occasion Chen Meng had prevailed in the quarter-final encounter.

Chen Meng resisted the challenge of Chen Xingtong (Photo: Tencent Sports)
Concluding stage

Attention now turns to the title deciding stage.

Saturday 4th January

1.00pm WS Round Zhu Yuling v Chen Meng
2.00pm MS Round Xu Xin v Zhou Qihao

7.00pm WS Final Winner v Sun Yingsha
8.00pm MS Winner v Fan Zhendong

General News Zhou Qihao