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Sunday 18th June


Ma Long adds to collection of honours, wins for first time in Japan

Top seed, Ma Long won the Men’s Singles title at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Platinum Lion Japan in Tokyo on the afternoon of Sunday 17th June; at the final hurdle he accounted for colleague and defending champion Fan Zhendong, the no.2 seed, in an all China final.

Ma Long won in five games (11-7, 5-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-5) and thus repeated the result of their most recent international meeting, the Liebherr 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf. Furthermore, for the first time in his career, he won the Men’s Singles title at an ITTF World Tour tournament in Japan.

Similar to many contests that involve players from China either against adversaries from foreign shores or against their own; when one player gains a lead, confidence increases and the player cannot be caught. It was the situation in the opening two games, honours were shared.

However, in the third game, matters were very different. Ma Long went ahead 6-3, surely he would now steam ahead; not so Fan Zhendong levelled at 6-all but responded to the mini crisis Ma Long, he surrendered just one more point to seize the advantage.

Two games to one ahead, Ma Long established a one point lead at 8-7 in the fourth game. Fan Zhendong levelled but the next three points were secured by Ma Long, he held a three games to one lead.

In the fifth game, Ma Long went ahead 3-1, Fan Zhendong called “Time Out”. Ma Long extended the lead to 8-4. At 10-4 he held six match points, the first was saved, not the second, Ma Long was victorious.

It was 36th time that Ma Long had appeared in an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles final, he has now won 24 times; he is just two wins behind Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus who has 26 victories to his name.

Meanwhile, for Fan Zhendong it was his fourth runners up spot in 12 ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles finals; notably now three have been at the hands of Ma Long. He was beaten by Ma Long in the final in Qatar in 2016 and earlier this year in February.


Ma Long extracts revenge

Beaten by Chinese national team compatriot Xu Xin one year ago when the tournament was also staged in Tokyo, Ma Long extracted revenge on the late morning of Sunday 18th June at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Platinum Lion China Open.

After a somewhat hesitant start, in the same round as he had perished the previous year; the top seed he emerged successful in a six games in his Men’s Singles semi-final encounter against Xu Xin, the no.3 seed (5-11, 13-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-5, 11-5).

He now faces Fan Zhendong, likewise from China in the final. In the counterpart semi-final, Fan Zhendong, the no.2 seed, accounted for the host nation’s Jun Mizutani, the no.4 seed (11-7, 11-6, 12-10,

In the contest between Ma Long and Xu Xin, it was the latter who made the better start. He won the opening game, Ma Long never able to find a rhythm.

However, Ma Long after saving one game point secured the second to level matters; the rallies were brief, neither player able to assert their authority. It was the same in the third game won by Ma Long; Xu Xin paying the price for errant forehand top spins.

Establish an early advantage, relax that vital fraction, execute the first attack that split second sooner and then assert authority. It was the situation for Xu Xin in the third game; it was even more so for Ma Long in the fifth. He won eight of the first ten points, eventually securing the game 10-5, after Xu Xin threatened to launch one of his legendary recoveries.

Somewhat conversely in the sixth game, neither player was able to establish gain an early commanding lead until from 4-all, Ma Long moved ahead 7-4; Xu Xin called “Time Out”. It was to no avail, at 10-4 Ma Long held six match points, one was saved, not a second.

Success for Ma Long, it was the same for Fan Zhendong in a contest where in the early part of the match Fan Zhendong was too powerful in the counter top spin rallies; it took time for Jun Mizutani to adapt.

The first two games went the way of Fen Zhendong, a lead established, the grip never slackened. In the third game Jun Mizutani took more risks, he strained every sinew to mount an early first attack but at 10-8 Fan Zhendong held two game points, Jun Mizutani saved both but at 11-10 he could not repeat the achievement.

Now Fan Zhendong was full of confidence; he won the first three points of the fourth game, Jun Mizutani called “Time Out”. Jun Mizutani three of the next six points, Qin Zhijian, the Chinese Men’s Team national coach sitting courtside, called for a break.

Jun Mizutani fought for the cause, he levelled at 8-all, at 10-9 he held game point, he seized the chance.