by Kabir Nagpal
Dishang Men’s World Cup Final: Fan Zhendong v Ma Long
The top picks for a year like 2020 have to begin with a callback to a match that is often counted as one of the best ever in table tennis history. The Dishang 2020 ITTF Men’s World Cup final was a rematch of the men’s singles final at the Liebherr 2017 ITTF World Championships between Fan Zhendong and Ma Long.
What a sensational final it was in Weihai. Fan Zhendong secured a 4-3 win, his hunger, power and consistency seeing him win his third consecutive gold medal at the event – his fourth in total, matching Ma Lin. However, this was hardly an easy match for the 23-year-old Chinese world no.1. Ma Long pushed him to his very limit at 3-3 and 5-5 during the final game – which is where Fan took the all-important time out and raced to a 10-7 lead. Neither giving an inch, Ma saved two match points; but Fan’s bravery saw him attacking Ma deep to the forehand to claim the all-important winner – and the trophy!
Universal ITTF Pan American Cup Third-place play-off: Wu Yue vs Zhang Mo
Earlier in the year, in the bronze medal contest of the Universal 2020 ITTF Pan American Cup, Wu Yue overcame Zhang Mo, following a series of seven spectacular games (9-11, 11-6, 23-21, 11-13, 6-11, 13-11, 11-3).
“The third and fourth games I just played, we know each other very well; I didn’t think so much I just played. I think I was leading 10-7 and still lost because I was thinking too much. It was not the final so I went point by point and enjoyed the match. I think this time I wanted to prove myself during the tournament, I did fine not great. After this I will prepare for the Olympic Games trials.” Wu Yue
The North American domestic between Wu and Mo turned out to be a classic at the competition as neither athlete gave the other any room. The third game remains the primary reason for this match’s inclusion in this list – with the score going as far as the old times run of 23 points. From there, both Wu and Mo shared games before the United States athlete claimed third place.
WTT Macao, Semi-final: Chen Xingtong v Chen Meng
The #RESTART series over the past two months has seen some incredible games but rarely did any of them see a more impressive athlete in action than Chen Xingtong. In what was her second consecutive comeback win of the WTT Macao tournament, it came in majestic fashion against the nearly unbeatable world no.1 Chen Meng.
The 23-year-old Chen ousted her namesake, who had scooped gold medals earlier in the month at both the Dishang Women’s World Cup and Bank of Communications ITTF Finals. After losing the first three games of her semi-final, Chen Xingtong reeled off the next four to complete a stunning victory (10-11, 1-11, 7-11, 11-10, 11-9, 11-5, 11-7).
CCB Europe Top 16 Quarter-final: Margaryta Pesotska v Han Ying
Two European women raised the intensity with their closely fought battle in the quarter-final of the CCB 2020 Europe Top 16 Cup.
“I think we both tried each other out in opening games; after that, we could only wait for the other side to make a mistake. In the seventh game, I was 7-2 down but I kept on fighting. I fought for each ball. I put more spin on the ball.” Margaryta Pesotska
Margaryta Pesotska emerged the winner against Germany’s Han Ying after having beaten Hungarian Dora Madarasz, the no.15 seed (11-4, 11-9, 11-13, 9-11, 11-4, 12-10). Facing Han, the no.4 seed in the quarter-finals, Ukraine’s Pesotska was in danger. In the vital seventh game she trailed 3-7, but then rallied herself to surrender just one more point and claim the win (16-18, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8, 6-11, 11-13, 11-8).
ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open, Semi-final: Xu Xin v Liam Pitchford
Liam Pitchford’s gallant win over Xu Xin at the Qatar Open was one of the biggest upsets of the year, but it also proved to be a pivotal moment for the Englishman. After Xu had an easy win in the first game, it was Pitchford’s cunning display that saw him slowly gain control in the match.
Ranked world no.23 on the day, Pitchford won the following two games showcasing his forehand skills, in an overall dominant performance over his Chinese opponent. Xu levelled the score to 2-2 and added the pressure on Pitchford, the now world no.15 executed his strategy of putting Xu in a disadvantaged position on his backhand, and secured a historic 4-2 (3-11, 11-7, 11-9, 6-11, 15-13, 11-9) win.
ITTF World Tour Platinum German Open Quarter-final: Dimitrij Ovtcharov v Fan Zhendong
Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov’s a strong mental attitude has often brought the crowd to their feet at the GETEC Arena in Magdeburg. In 2017, at the semi-final of the men’s singles event, Dima beat China’s Fan Zhendong in a thrilling seven games duel, decided by the very narrowest of margins (13-11, 11-7, 7-11, 3-11, 11-9, 8-11, 13-11).
Three years later it was a fitting déjà vu, when he repeated the feat at the quarter-final stage of the ITTF World Tour Platinum German Open. Seeded no.10, he accounted for Fan – again in dramatic fashion – prevailing after being 1-3 down to win 4-3 (9-11, 11-4, 8-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-5, 12-10).