by Ian Marshall, Editor
Accepted that Ma Long is a colleague and was the player whom he partnered to gold in the men’s doubles event just under one year ago at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest, it is still an outstanding success.
Simply Ma Long has won every major the title the sport has to offer; he is one of the greatest players of all time.
Adjusted to big time
Wang Chuqin is only 19 years old, Ma Long, now 31 years of age, is from at least one generation earlier, if not two, far more experienced and adjusted to big time matches; however, has not Wang Chuqin underlined the fact that he is a player for the greatest of all stages?
Accepted there was the unfortunate situation last year on the ITTF World Tour in Austria when, after losing to colleague Zhao Zihao, he was suspended for three months for throwing his racket but I would suggest that was totally out of character. We all have our moments when we could kick the cat into the local river and then later think better of our actions.
Watching Wang Chuqin play, you see a stoic character, a player who is relatively unruffled; a fact that was clearly shown in the final of the men’s singles event at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games when he beat Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto in the final.
He had the task of maintaining national honour, following in the footsteps of Fan Zhendong who had won four years earlier in Nanjing.
On that occasion eyes focused on Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto, at the time he had two ITTF World Tour titles to his name having won in the Czech Republic and on home soil in Japan. For Wang Chuqin he had not hit the same headlines but had shown intent, earlier in the year he had been the runner up in Hungary.
In Buenos Aires not only did Wang Chuqin follow carefully laid tactics to the full, he remained calm, assured and focused, not overawed by the situation.
It was the same in Doha, especially in the deciding seventh game, Ma Long won the first two points but at the change of ends, it was Wang Chuqin who held the advantage at 5-3; in such a contest, time and again as a match has progressed, the forehand of Ma Long has been on automatic pilot. On this occasion it was not the situation, he did make errors as Wang Chuqin proved too fast; not with the speed of his footwork, with the speed of his attacking play. He gave a lesson in the importance of timing the ball early.
Equally, just as the previous day when Vladimir Samsonov had beaten Lin Gaoyuan, at the start of the deciding game Wang Chuqin urged himself forward with a deep throated cry of success after winning a point. At the change of ends, from that moment forth, he took stock, he remained totally in control of his emotions.
He established a 7-5 lead; that was the crucial moment. He won the next point, had the gap been reduced to one, could the outcome have been very different? A three point gap, Wang Chuqin never relinquished the advantage, at 10-6 he held four match points, he needed just one.
It was welcome back to the international arena for a hungry young man, it was welcome back in style.