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Ma Long wins in Shenzhen

The best player on planet earth, for those who believe in that point of view, their opinion was endorsed on Sunday 3rd June in the final of the Men’s Singles event at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Platinum Kaisa China Open in Shenzhen.

Ma Long, the no.5 seed, beat Chinese national team colleague, Fan Zhendong, the top seed, to arrest the precious title. He won in five games (7-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-3, 14-12).

The first two games were shared; strong from the backhand, especially over the table with the first attack, Fan Zhendong made the better start; he duly secured the opening game.

Conversely, active, Ma Long replied to secure the second but not after he had given his supporters some nervous moments; he went ahead 8-4, then lost the next four points before winning three in a row to secure the game.

Again in the third game, Ma Long established a lead, he moved ahead 9-3; this time there was no Fan Zhendong recovery; Ma Long surrendered just one more point, he held the lead.

Safe from the backhand, able to absorb the attacking endeavours of Fan Zhendong and when the chance arose lethal from the forehand, Ma Long dominated the fourth. Fan Zhendong continually under pressure made mistakes; he was not able to find the form of the opening game.

A response from Fan Zhendong was needed; the response came. In the fifth game he went ahead 6-2, Ma Long reduced the gap to one point at 6-5; understandably with one service in the sequence of two remaining, Fan Zhendong called “Time Out”. Fan Zhendong won the next point before Ma Long levelled at 8-all; but at 10-8 it was two game points in favour of the top seed.

Ma Long saved both game points, before saving two more. At 13-12 he held his first opportunity. He duly converted, the title was secured.

Success and success for the seventh time in a Men’s Singles title at an ITTF World Tour tournament in China but the first time in Shenzhen. Previously he had succeeded three times in Suzhou, twice in Chengdu and once in Changchun.

Overall, he now appeared in 38 ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles finals and has won 26 times; he is just one behind the all-time leader Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus.

Meanwhile for Fan Zhendong, who won earlier this year in Hungary and Qatar, it was a 15th such final; his fifth when finishing the runner up. Notably of those finals, four have now been when facing Ma Long.

He was beaten by Ma Long in the final in Qatar in both 2016 and 2017, as well as in the latter year in Japan; in Shenzhen it was déjà vu.


Wang Manyu wins again

The winner the previous week in Hong Kong, Wang Manyu repeated the feat on home soil at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Platinum Kaisa China Open in Shenzhen on Sunday 3rd June.

Maintaining the form displayed in the Queen Elizabeth Stadium, in the Bo’an Stadium, the no.4 seed, she beat colleague Ding Ning, the no.9 seed to secure the title (13-11, 9-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5).

Undoubtedly, the opening game for Wang Manyu was a test of nerve, she passed the test. She led 10-6, Ding Ning reduced the arrears to 10-9; Wang Manyu called “Time Out” but Ding Ning levelled and then at 12-11 held game point.

A lesser player may have panicked, not Wang Manyu, playing against one of the mentally strongest opponents on planet earth, she won the next three points to seize the early advantage.

Success by a narrow margin in the opening game, it was exactly the same in the second, only this time for Ding Ning. Changing the pace and degrees of spin, Ding Ning led 10-5; Wang Manyu won the next four points, Ding Ning called “Time Out”. The break worked, Ding Ning won the next point; it was parity.

Notably both players had elected for the “Time Out” when their opponent was serving; perhaps not always recommended as you are not necessarily able to dictate the play.

Close opening games, the third and fourth were no different with honours shared, the former to Ding Ning, the latter to Wang Manyu, after Ding Ning had recovered from 5-9 in arrears to level matters.

True to the tradition of the contest, the fifth game was an equally close affair; at 8-all matters were level; Wang Manyu, resolute, won the next three points she held a one game lead.

Success in the fifth game, in the sixth Wang Manyu seized the advantage, she won the first three points; determined true to her character, Ding Ning levelled at 7-all, then trailed 8-9 before winning the next three points to seal the game.

A deciding seventh game beckoned; at the change of ends, Wang Manyu led 5-3; the advantage was never relinquished. At 10-5 she held five match points; she succeeded at the first attempt.

It was for Wang Manyu her fourth ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles final of the year; it was her third success. In addition to last week in Hong Kong, previously she had won in Hungary, having in March been the runner up in Qatar. In total it was her seventh career such final, the fourth time, the winner.

Conversely for Ding Ning it was the fourth occasion and three in a row that Ding Ning had appeared in an ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles final in China; all previous occasions being in Chengdu. She had won in 2016 and 2017 as well as four years ago in 2014.

Overall it was her 25th such final; she has been the runner up on 12 occasions.