Volkswagen 2004 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals: Olympic champions crowned in Beijing
Gold medallists earlier in the year at the Olympic Games in Athens, China’s Chen Qi and Ma Lin, alongside Wang Nan and Zhang Yining, repeated their success later in the year in Beijing.
They won the respective men’s doubles and women’s doubles titles at the Volkswagen 2004 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
After accounting for the combination of Germany’s Peter Franz and Sweden’s Jens Lundqvist (6-11, 11-5, 11-9, 11-6, 11-7), Chen Qi and Ma Lin faced Denmark’s Michael Maze and Finn Tugwell, Athens bronze medallists, a testing encounter ensued, the champions elect succeeded by the very narrowest of decisions ((11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 6-11, 11-5, 10-12, 11-8).
"We need to play at this level more; it's the small points that we lost, the little mistakes cost us dear", said Peter Sartz, coach to the Danish duo. "You can't afford to make unforced errors against players of the calibre of Chen Qi and Ma Lin."
Chen Qi and Ma Lin established a two games lo nil lead but the Danes, to their credit, fought back and eventually forced a deciding seventh game. "I think when we went ahead by two games to nil, we lost concentration somewhat", said Ma Lin. "We need to be more consistent", added Finn Tugwell.
At the same stage Kong Linghui and Wang Hao had beaten the Athens Olympic Games silver medallists, Hong Kong’s Ko Lai Chak and Li Ching in five games (11-3, 11-3, 9-11, 11-6, 11-8) and in the final came so very close to victory.
In the title decider proceedings went the full distance. Kong Linghui and Wang Hao won the sixth game by the very narrowest of margins to level the match score; in the decisive seventh they were ahead 5-2 when the pairs changed ends. Eventually they held a 9-6 lead, the quality of the rallies was breathtaking, superb table tennis from all four players with Chen Qi and Ma Lin in top form as they won five points in a row to win the match. Thus retained the title won one year earlier in Guangzhou.
Success for the Olympic champions in the men's doubles event, some 50 minutes earlier, it had been success for their counterparts, Wang Nan and Zhang Yining.
Seeded no.2, they beat Austria’s Liu Jia and Veronika Heine in the opening round (11-5, 11-4, 11-5, 11-6) followed by a semi-final victory over Korea Republic’s Lee Eunsil and Suk Eunmi (11-3, 11-8, 3-11, 11-1, 5-11, 11-6) and a final success against their compatriots, the top seeds, Guo Yue and Niu Jianfeng (11-6, 11-7, 11-3, 8-11, 14-12).
Impressive, en route to the final it had been the same from Guo Yue and Niu Jianfeng. The had beaten Belarus defenders Tatyana Kostromina and Veronika Pavlovich in round one 11-4, 11-7, 6-11, 11-2, 11-7) followed by a straight games success in opposition to Hong Kong’s Song Ah Sim and Tie Yana (11-8, 11-9, 11-6, 11-6).
In the final Wang Nan and Zhang Yining made the better start. They won the first game 11-6, established an 8-5 lead in the second before Guo Yue and Niu Jianfeng reduced the arrears to 8-7 but then they made no further progress with the champions elect winning the next two points to take a two games to nil lead. The Olympic champions went ahead 9-1 in the third, eventually winning 11-3 and in the fourth. On the fifth they led 8-5 before Guo Yue and Niu Jianfeng won six points in a row to give themselves a glimmer of hope.
However, despite a brave effort, recovering from an 8-10 deficit to 10-all, they saved a further match point before holding game point themselves at 12-11, there was to be no storybook recovery.
Wang Nan and Zhang Yining won fourthree points in a row, to secure the title (11-6, 11-7, 11-3, 8-11, 14-12); Guo Yue and Niu Jianfeng, the winners one year earlier had to settle for silver.