MA Long has rubberstamped his reputation as arguably the greatest ever male player in table tennis history.
‘The Dragon’ is officially the most successful player in ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles history after the Chinese superstar surpassed Belarusian legend Vladimir SAMSONOV’s 15 year-long record to claim his 28th career title in the ITTF’s premier tour format that has run since 1996.
The 30-year-old achieved the feat on a sensational Sunday evening in Shenzhen, where he romped to victory at the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum China Open, defeating LIN Gaoyuan 4-0 in the final (12-10, 11-6, 11-5, 11-4).
That victory also sealed his eighth success at the China Open alone, extending yet another record which belongs to this remarkable athlete, who has been simply unstoppable since returning to the international stage in March following a seven-month injury layoff.
In the space of just nine weeks, MA equalled SAMSONOV’s record with gold at the Qatar Open. He then clinched his third consecutive crown at the World Table Tennis Championships in Budapest. Now he holds the outright record for ITTF World Tour titles thanks to China Open glory.
Even by his extraordinarily lofty standards, MA’s recent form has been mesmerising.
CHEN MENG: CHAMPION AND WORLD NO. 1!
Just an hour before Ma Long’s heroics, CHEN Meng (CHN) sealed the Women’s Singles title with a convincing 4-1 victory over compatriot and 2018 China Open champion WANG Manyu (11-3, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7).
The result consolidates a number of recent successes, which have seen CHEN climb to the top of the World Rankings for the first time since April 2018.
The most in-form player in the women’s game has now won three ITTF World Tour titles (2018 Austrian, 2019 Hungarian and 2019 China) and the 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in the last six months.
This was also CHEN’s 11th win from 14 finals in Women’s Singles competition on the ITTF World Tour. Discounting April’s World Championships final which she led and then lost to LIU Shiwen (CHN), the 25-year-old has built up a habit of rising to the big occasions.
JAPANESE STARS FALL SHORT
Undoubtedly two of the standout performers at this week’s China Open were Japanese duo, Mima ITO and Tomokazu HARIMOTO.
ITO provided a stunning display on Saturday to defeat former world no. 1 DING Ning (CHN) 4-1, but went on to lose by the same scoreline to WANG Manyu in Sunday’s semi-final (10-12, 10-12, 11-5, 7-11, 6-11).
HARIMOTO also made it through to the final day after impressive 4-0 and 4-1 wins over Liam PITCHFORD (ENG) and WONG Chun Ting (HKG) respectively.
The 15-year-old also led MA Long in his semi-final, before the eventual champion clinched a tight second game and saw out the victory (14-16, 16-14, 11-7, 11-8, 11-7).
In the day’s two other semi-finals between all-Chinese athletes, CHEN Meng outpowered ZHU Yuling (18-16, 5-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-9), while LIN Gaoyuan overturned XU Xin’s 2-1 lead to win in six games (11-9, 6-11, 5-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6).
DOUBLES DELIGHT FOR GERMAN DUO
Timo BOLL and Patrick FRANZISKA were the stars of the show on Saturday, collecting Men’s Doubles gold medals.
The German pair stunned the current World Champions, WANG Chuqin and MA Long, with an emphatic 3-0 victory over their esteemed Chinese opponents (11-8, 11-7, 11-5).
Chinese Taipei celebrated gold in the Mixed Doubles as LIN Yun-Ju and CHENG I-Ching came from behind to defeat Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem (10-12, 11-6, 11-1, 11-5).
GU Yuting and LIU Shiwen were crowned Women’s Doubles champions after the unseeded pair dominated their all-Chinese showdown with a straight-game victory over top-ranked WANG Manyu and ZHU Yuling (11-7, 12-10, 11-9).
NEXT UP: HONG KONG!
Next week brings the fourth event of the 2019 ITTF World Tour with the Hong Kong Open taking place between 4 – 9 June!