Starting the year in style
China’s Xu Xin and Chen Meng won the respective men’s singles and women’s singles titles at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum German Open in Magdeburg on Sunday 2nd February.
Two of the outstanding performers during 2019, both players justified their top seeded positions in Germany, continuing to set sky-high standards in the world of international table tennis.
At the semi-final stage, Xu Xin made light work of victory against Lin Gaoyuan, the no.4 seed (11-6, 11-6, 11-4, 11-8), before overcoming no.3 seed Ma Long in a similar manner (15-13, 11-8, 11-7, 11-5) to arrest the title, his first in singles competition on the World Tour since the Australian Open in July 2019 and 18th of his career.
“Ma Long is a legend and I am very glad that I can be his opponent. I am pretty happy with the result. I can say with pride that I have the best win-loss record against him among all currently active players.” – Xu Xin
Similarly, Chen Meng was in no mood for charity. In the penultimate round she ousted no.5 seed Zhu Yuling in straight games (12-10, 11-2, 11-8, 15-13), before securing the title at the expense of Ding Ning (3-11, 11-1, 11-7, 11-3, 11-1). This was Chen’s 14th career success in the World Tour women’s singles competition.
Chen Meng thus extended her impeccable record in World Tour finals, winning a remarkable 17 out of 21. Additionally, 561 days have passed since she last lost a World Tour final, the 2018 Korea Open. Since then, she has lifted eight titles, including two World Tour Grand Finals crowns.
“I just treated this final like any other match that needs to be won. Regardless of whether I win or lose, all events provide me with valuable experience for me to learn from. Of course winning gives me more confidence, but losing allows me to see the flaws in my game.” – Chen Meng
Imperious final performances in Magdeburg, but both of the eventual champions had almost crashed out of the tournament three days earlier in the opening round against Korea Republic qualifiers. Xu had needed the full seven games to beat An Jaehyun (11-4, 9-11, 11-4, 9-11, 11-8, 4-11, 11-3); Chen Meng had been on the brink of defeat in the sixth game in opposition to Suh Hyowon (12-14, 11-5, 10-12, 7-11, 11-7, 15-13, 11-4).
Ovtcharov almost rekindles Magdeburg magic
Defeated in the final to a supreme Xu Xin, in the penultimate round Ma Long had put in an impressive display himself. “The Dragon” ended the hopes of the host nation by defeating Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the no.10 seed (11-3, 11-9, 11-13, 13-15, 11-3, 11-6), a player full of confidence and backed by passionate supporters at the GETEC Arena in Magdeburg, who had cheered him on to the 2017 German Open title in the same venue.
At the quarter-final stage, the 31 year old had stunned the table tennis world by completing an epic fightback against no.2 seed Fan Zhendong, in which the German saved match point in the fourth game (9-11, 11-4, 8-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-5, 12-10). The victory ended Fan’s 111-day reign as German Open champion, having claimed the 2019 title on 13th October last year.
An early exit for the no.2 seed in the men’s singles event, it was the same in the women’s singles. At the same stage, Sun Yingsha lost to Chinese national team colleague, Wang Manyu, the no.6 seed (11-6, 8-11, 9-11, 11-8, 12-10, 3-11, 11-8). Not included in Team China’s selection for the upcoming World Team Championships in March, Wang looked motivated to make a statement in Magdeburg, but she was unable to navigate her way past Ding Ning in the next round, surrendering a 2-0 lead (2-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-1, 11-9).
Like Ma Long, Ding demonstrated fine form in Germany. In her quarter-final, the 29 year old had ended the hopes of Japan’s Mima Ito, the no.4 seed (11-7, 11-13, 14-12, 11-8, 11-5), thus avenging her quarter-final defeat on home soil at the 2019 China Open.
An eventual semi-final exit for Ding after showing so much promise, it was a similar story for Zhu Yuling. At the quarter-final stage she had ousted Liu Shiwen, the no.3 seed and reigning World champion, in a most devastating straight games showing (11-3, 11-9, 11-3, 11-2).
Disappointment for Liu Shiwen in singles action, but it was not all doom and gloom for the 28 year old. Partnering Xu Xin and occupying the top seeded spot in the mixed doubles event, the duo defeated Japan’s Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito, the no.4 seeds (12-10, 13-11, 7-11, 11-7) to take the top prize on Saturday 1st February.
Two titles for Xu Xin, it was the same for Chen Meng; partnering Wang Manyu as top seeds, they secured the women’s doubles title with victory over Japan’s Miu Hirano and Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.6 seeds (11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 11-8).
Success upon success for China, but it was not to be a full house. Korea Republic’s 17 year old Cho Daeseong and 24 year old Jang Woojin emerged from the qualification rounds to eventually clinch the men’s doubles crown.
Having ousted top seeded colleagues Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangu in the penultimate round (11-8, 11-5, 7-11, 11-3), they secured the title at the final expense of Lin Gaoyuan and Ma Long, the no.2 seeds (10-12, 15-13, 12-14, 14-12, 11-6).
That meant two runners up spots for Ma Long, the reigning Olympic and World champion, not a usual occurrence; this time, the honours very much belonged to Xu Xin and Chen Meng.