Ma retains men’s singles title after beating Fan in thrilling final South Korean duo clinch men’s do
China’s Ma Long, the world number one, could not have hoped for a better ending to a very eventful year than the one he had at the expansive hall of the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena on Sunday.
After four-days of exhilarating game of table tennis the Rio Olympics gold medalist defeated his compatriot Fan Zhendong, the world number two, 4-2 (11-5, 11-4, 11-9, 7-11, 12-14, 11-9) to emerge the last man standing in the men’s singles of the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
For his efforts, Ma, the ITTF World Cup winner, walks away with the $60,000 winner’s cash prize while Fan gets $30,000 as the runner-up.
Sunday’s final was a repeat of the 2015 event in Lisbon where the top two paddlers on the global stage clashed in the final of the season-ending tournament. Back then, Ma had to wait till the seventh set before digging out a win in an encounter that has always been referenced for its excitement and suspense.
In Doha, the game started on a very dominant note for the 28-year-old Ma as he took the first three sets in record time and he was cruising to a remarkable straight sets victory before Fan took the bull by the horn by staging a comeback win despite trailing 3-7 at one stage of the fourth set.
If the fourth was considered dramatic, the fifth and sixth was even more. . Trailing 7-10 and 11-12 in the fifth game Fan saved four match points and then one more in the sixth at 8-10, before Ma eventually killed the game in the sixth.
Victory in Doha makes it the fifth time the world champion would be claiming the coveted trophy, making him the clear leader on the all-time winners’ list.
His nearest challenger, the now retired Wang Liqin, won three before bowing out of the sport in 2013.
Meanwhile, for the 19-year-old Fan, the search for the elusive trophy continues after a disappointing back-to-back near miss.
“This is a worthy ending to a good season for me. I’ve been in good shape all through the year and with it have come some exciting wins. I’m happy that I’m leaving Doha with the trophy after playing against a very good player in the final.
“I wish Fan all the best and a better luck next time. I’ve enjoyed every bit of my stay in the country and I must commend the organisers for putting up a wonderful show,” Ma said after his victory.
Doha was the 14th all Chinese men’s singles final.
In the men’s doubles, South Korea’s Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu beat Japan’s Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima to clinch the precious title, recovering from a two games to nil deficit to secure victory (5-11, 2-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-7, 11-4).
Success for Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu meant it was the third time that in five appearances in the title deciding contest at a Grand Finals that a partnership representing the Korea Republic had secured the title.
“I am very happy to win the doubles title; today was the same as the Asian Championships, we lost the first two games buy eventually came back to beat them. In the first two games we made many mistakes and there weren’t any good long rallies,” Sangsu said.