Title retained, dramatic fifth win, Ma Long out of sight
One year ago in Lisbon, China’s Ma Long and Fan Zhendong faced each other in the Men’s Singles final; one year later, on Sunday 11th December, the respective top two seeds, they met again in the title deciding contest at the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Doha.
In the Portuguese capital city, in a thrilling contest, the verdict went in favour of Ma Long; in Doha, it was the same, Ma Long beat Fan Zhendong but this time without the need for a seventh game but in equally dramatic circumstances. Trailing 7-10 and 11-12 in the fifth game Fan Zhendong saved four match points before Ma Long eventually succeeded in six games (11-5, 11-4, 11-9, 7-11, 12-14, 11-9).
Success for Ma Long means that he is now out of sight, beyond the horizon; it is the fifth time he has won the coveted title, his nearest challenger is his now retired compatriot, Wang Liqin. He won three times.
Conversely for Fan Zhendong, the title is one that remains elusive but we must remember that he is only 19 years old and is in good company.
Consider the players in the modern era who have won the Women’s Singles title at the Olympic Games or at the World Championships; all have won at the Grand Finals.
It is not so with the men; Liu Guoliang never won the Grand Finals Men’s Singles title and, as yet, the coveted crown has not finished in the possession of Zhang Jike.
However, look at the other Chinese winners and it is the elite of the elite who have succeeded.
Ma Lin and Wang Hao each won on two occasions, the same number also possessed currently by Xu Xin; Kong Linghui and Liu Guozheng won one apiece.
An impressive list and to underline Chinese dominance; in now 21 editions of the tournament, China has provided 16 of the Men’s Singles winners
Furthermore, Doha was the 14th all Chinese Men’s Singles final.