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Ma Lin and Zhang Yinging win in Xiaoshan

Thursday 09 July

Ma Lin and Zhang Yinging win in Xiaoshan

On the one and only occasion when both events were held at the same time and at the same venue, China’s Ma Lin and Zhang Yining emerged the respective men’s and women’s champions at the Bosideng Multiglory 2004 World Cup held in Xiaoshan from Wednesday 27th October to Sunday 31st October.

The tournament came just some two months after the table tennis events had concluded in the Galatsi Stadium at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games; both had points to prove but rather from a different perspective.

In the Greek capital, Ma Lin had experienced a fourth round men’s singles defeat at the hands of Sweden’s Jan-Ove Waldner; Zhang Yining had won the women’s singles title. On home soil, they were the dominant players, neither was extended the full seven game distance on route to victory.

Ma Lin had few problems reaching the quarter­final stage where he faced Timo Boll; he prevailed in a most impressive manner (11-4, 11-1, 9-11, 11-8, 11-0). In the fifth game at 10-0, Ma Lin deliberately tried to serve long to give Timo Boll a consolation point; it proved the perfect serve, the ball clipped the edge of the table, unreturnable.

"Ma Lin probably played the best of his career", explained Boll after his defeat "I didn't have a chance to come close to him, if he plays like this no-one can beat him."

The German was correct; Ma Lin continued in relentless fashion overcoming his compatriot, Wang Hao (11-1, 11-8, 11-3, 11-4) in the semis before beating Kalinikos Kreanga of Greece in the final (5-11, 14-12, 3-11, 14-12, 11-9, 12-10).

Notably, the two had met in the final of the World Cup one year earlier in Jiangyin when Ma Lin had also reigned supreme (9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-7, 11-9); once again the Chinese star won the contest and, in so doing, secured his third Men’s World Cup title.

In the final Ma Lin made a slow start and trailed by two games to one before winning a very close fourth game to level proceedings; as the match progressed the Chinese star found his rhythm, won the fifth game but then trailed 7-10 in the sixth. A seventh game seemed imminent but Kreanga made mistakes, Ma Lin won five points in a row and once again was the champion.

Ma Lin prevailed in six games (5-11, 14-12, 3-11, 14-12, 11-9, 12-10). "I was stunned by Kreanga's performance at first; fortunately I was able to change my tactics against him and managed to beat him", said Ma Lin.

However, for Kreanga it was a welcome return to form after the disappointment of his exit at the Olympic Games, when in the men’s singles he was beaten in his very first match by Sweden’s Jörgen Persson (11-5, 11-7, 11-9, 11-8). He could leave China satisfied with his performance.

En route to the final, he had beaten the reigning European champion Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus in the group stage (11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 11-5, 11-9), Austria’s Werner Schlager, crowned World champion, one year earlier in Paris, in the quarter-finals (12-10, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6) and Korea Republic’s Joo Saehyuk in the penultimate round (11-7, 10-12, 11-6, 11-9, 10-12, 5-11, 11-8), the player Schlager had beaten in the final in the French capital city.

Equally impressive was Zhang Yining who defeated Wang Nan to secure the title, the latter having lost her opening match in the group stage to Gao Jun of the United States (11-9, 9-11, 8-11, 15-13, 8-11, 16-14, 11-9)

Wang Nan recovered, she duly secured first place in the group, before in the main draw accounting for Croatia’s Tamara Boros (10-12, 5-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-7, 11-8) and Singapore’s Li Jiawei (10-12, 11-9, 4-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-3) to reach the women’s final.

Meanwhile, Zhang Yining had advanced without any trials and tribulations; notably at the quarter-final stage she beat Korea Republic’s Kim Kyungah (11-2, 11-2, 11-8, 11-7), prior to one round later overcoming Hong Kong’s Tie Yana (11-4, 11-6, 11-3, 11-4).

Good form on the journey to the final, it was good form in the final; Zhang Yining prevailed in six games (15-13, 7-11, 11-5, 11-6, 8-11, 11-8).

"It was an important match for both of us", said Wang Nan. "Zhang Vining needed to prove herself after the glory of Athens whilst for me it was a confidence booster which can help me in the other big events."

Success for the Athens 2004 women's singles Olympic champion but not for Ryu Seungmin, the men’s gold medallist. He didn't make the quarter-final stage. In the group stage, after narrowly beating Jan-Ove Waldner (11-7, 11-9, 10-12, 11-9, 11-13, 8-11, 11-9) he lost to Werner Schlager (12-10, 9-11, 11-5, 11-6, 7-11, 11-5) and to Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro (5-11, 10-12, 11-8, 11-6, 8-11, 11-8, 11-8) who thus recorded the best win of his career.

Such is sport, such is table tennis.

Editor: Ian Marshall

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