Class tells, top two names reach final, end of road for brave Korean
The top two seeds, the players who finished the year in first and second places respectively on the ITTF World Tour Standings and occupy those positions on the World Rankings, China’s Ma Long and Fan Zhendong, emerged successful at the semi-final stage of proceedings at the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals. On the evening of Saturday 10th December, Ma Long beat Korea’s Jeoung Youngsik, the no.12 seed (11-9, 11-8, 11-8, 14-12), before Fan Zhendong concluded the penultimate day of action by overcoming colleague Xu Xin (11-5, 5-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-6, 11-9).
One day earlier at the quarter-final stage of proceedings, Ma Long had overwhelmed Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting; he had won in four straight games (11-4,11-3,11-6,11-5).
Against Jeoung Youngsik, it was also a straight games verdict but it was a much closer encounter, a greater test for Ma Long than the previous evening. Throughout the tournament Jeoung Youngsik has impressed; technically the backhand is stronger than the forehand, traditionally, the opposite for a Korean.
However that is not the vital factor; the significant element is that he now clearly believes that he can compete with the very best in the world; that fact was witnessed in the vocal response when winning a point. There was no hint that the fact Ma Long was the Olympic and World champion meant that his adversary was from a different planet and out of reach.
Perhaps winning the first two games against the Chinese star in the Men’s Singles event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and competing in the Chinese Super League has given Jeoung Youngsik those vital few degrees of confidence needed to compete against the very best.
“I think both Jeoung Youngsik and I played at a high level during the match tonight. I won four-nil but the score in all four games was very close. Today, my handling of crucial points was also quite good and I think Jeoung Youngsik played well. He’s grown and improved a lot over past two years. Against Chuang Chih-Yuan and Jun Mizutani, he had to recover from two-nil down to win both matches, so it shows that he has very strong skills and is very capable. In Rio, it was his first time playing in the Olympic Games, in that match he had some opportunities to win but he didn’t take the chance. So I guess he felt it was a shame to lose, tonight I was in control of the match overall”, Ma Long
Success for Ma Long was followed by success for Fan Zhendong, who maintained his current ascendancy over Xu Xin; in the current Chinese Super League they have met twice, Fan Zhendong has won on both occasions.
Xu Xin, renowned for his ability follow his service with a powerful forehand top spin attack, exercised that skill but more than once, Fan Zhendong anticipated and with a stunning reaction block left Xu Xin flat footed.
Notably, following his success in Doha, in international competition, Fan Zhendong has now won eight of the most recent contests against Xu Xin; the only success for Xu Xin since the Asian Games staged, which concluded in early October in 2015, is at the 2016 ITTF World Tour Korean Open held six months ago in Incheon.
Finalists in the Men’s Singles event decided; earlier in the evening the players who will contest the Under 21 Men’s Singles title was determined.
Chinese Taipei’s Liao Cheng-Ting will play Japan’s Yuto Muramatsu. At the semi-final stage Liao Cheng-Ting beat Frenchman, Can Akkuzu (11-8, 11-8, 11-6, 11-4), Yuto Muramatsu ended the hopes of colleague, Mizuki Oikawa (11-8, 8-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-5).
Play concludes in Doha on Sunday 11th December.