LIEBHERR 2019 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Sunday 28th April
Ma Long for the third time
Defending champion, China’s Ma Long retained his men’s singles title at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest on Sunday 28th April and thus even more indelibly inscribed his name in the history books of sport; the success coming prior to colleagues Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu claiming women’s doubles gold.
At the final hurdle he overcame Mattias Falck in five games (11-5, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 11-5), the Swede proving a more than worthy adversary.
Thus for the sixth consecutive occasion Ma Long stood on the men’s singles podium when the World Championships curtain closed, more significantly for the third time in a row on the top step.
Most certainly he was tested, after losing the opening two games, Mattias Falck dominated the third before establishing an 8-6 lead in the fourth, at 9-8 in arrears Ma Long called “Time Out”, advice from coach Qin Zhijian, the pause worked to perfection. A two game cushion a more relaxed Ma Long, pressed the accelerator.
Only on debut, when in 2017 in the fourth round in Zagreb he tried to blast the defensive skills of the Korea Republic’s Joo Saehyuk out of the water and duly came to grief, has Ma Long not departed with a men’s singles medal. Commencing in 2009 in Yokohama, on three editions it was a semi-final defeat at the hands of colleague Wang Hao; in 2015 in Suzhou he turned the corner and ever since has been driving down the main road.
He now joins the elite club of which Hungarian born Victor Barna and China’s Zhuang Zedong are members; players who have won the men’s singles title at a World Championships on three consecutive occasions.
Meanwhile, in the women’s doubles final, Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu recovered from a two games to nil deficit to beat Japan’s Hina Hayata and Mima Ito in six games (8-11, 3-11, 11-8, 11-3, 12-10, 11-8) to arrest the title.
Success and they very much maintained the ethos of the tournament; they commenced play as the second seeds as opposed to their opponents who headed the order. Thus, somewhat different to previous years, of the five events on offer, not one was won by the top seeds.
Undoubtedly the crucial stage of the contest arose in the sixth game, level at 9-all, Hina Hayata and Mima Ito, elected for “Time Out”, the break was to work in favour of Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu.
Notably Hina Hayata and Mima Ito had enjoyed success in opposition to Chinese partnerships; on the Seamaster ITTF World Tour, they beat Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling in the final in 2017 in Stockholm before last year securing the title in Linz at the final expense of Chen Xingtong and Sun Yingsha.
In Budapest there was to be no repeat, Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu underled their growing status, having earlier this year won on the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour in Qatar.
It is the 22nd time when China has won the women’s doubles title but since 1997 in Manchester when Deng Yaping and Yang won, it is only the second time that the title has not been won be a left and right handed partnership. Like colleagues Liu Shiwen and Zhu Yuling who won in 2015 in Suzhou both Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu are right handers.
Moreover, it is the ninth time China has completed the clean sweep of the five events.
By Ian Marshall, Editor
Photo Credit: ITTF