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Men's Team Final-2018 ITTF Team World Cup

2018 ITTF  Team World  Cup

London: Sunday 25th February

 

Ma Long guides team home, seals victory

The defending champions and winners on eight previous occasions, China won the Men’s event at the 2018 ITTF Team World Cup in London’s Copper Box arena on the late afternoon of Sunday 25th February.

Led by Ma Long with Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin in support, a three-nil win was recorded in opposition to the Japanese outfit comprising Tomokazu Harimoto, Koki Niwa and Jin Ueda.

Crowned World champions in Rotterdam in 2011, the ideal partnership, the right handed shake-hands grip allied with a left handed pen-holder Ma Long and Xu Xin was the partnership selected by Liu Guozheng, the Chinese national coach.

Great credit to Koki Niwa and Jin Ueda; they never flinched in their task, they contributed immensely to what was a contest which enthralled the full to capacity auditorium, the quality of the rallies breath-taking.

The first two games secured, trailing 5-6 in the third, Yosuke Kurashima, the Japanese national coach, called “Time Out”; the decision was understandable but it was not to reap great dividends. Ma Long and Xin Xin were not to be denied; each game close but each game in favour of China (11-8, 11-9, 11-7).

Success for Ma Long and Xu Xin was followed by success for Fan Zhendong against Tomokazu Harimoto. Safe, solid and secure; the unforced errors minimal, the fact that Fan Zhendong is the master of keeping the ball on the table maintained the pressure on Tomokazu Harimoto, the effect was that in his enthusiasm to seize the advantage he made mistakes.

Trailing 5-6 in the third game, Yosuke Kurashima called “Time Out”. He had little choice, credit to the 14 year old; he fought for every point and gave his more senior adversary food for thought. At 8-all it was parity but for Tomokazu Harimoto there was to be no further success, the next three points went to Fan Zhendong (11-7, 11-8, 11-8); China moved one step closed their goal.

China was now in command, next into the arena came the captain, Ma Long; ten previous contests against Koki Niwa, nine in his favour, the only defeat being at the Asian Qualification tournament for the London 2012 Olympic Games. Once in England’s capital city, there was no such repeat but Ma Long did experience problems.

After winning the opening game, he lost the second as Koki Niwa raised his levelled and thrilled the crowd; conversely Ma Long made uncharacteristic errors. Matters level, Ma Long sought to seized the initiative at the earliest opportunity as the third game started but he could not establish a clear advantage; not until 5-all. He won the next two points, then he was in overdrive; without a further point being surrendered he captured the game.

Now the tide had turned, in the fourth game Ma Long established a 5-3 lead, Koki Niwa called “Time Out” but there was no stopping Ma Long, he was in the fast lane, a four games win was secured (11-8, 3-11, 11-5, 11-3) the title, for the ninth time, belonged to China.

Success for China, for the sixth time Ma Long and Xu Xin were members of the winning team; both made their debuts in in the competition in 2009 in Linz and have been present ever since that date.

Notably, Ma Long did not play in the 2015 final in Dubai; for Fan Zhendong it was his second consecutive appearance, his second final.