LIEBHERR 2019 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Saturday 28th April
Further titles for China, Liu Shiwen completes full house
Success for Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen the previous day in the mixed doubles event, one day later on the morning of Saturday 27th April at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest, Ma Long and Wang Chuqin emulated their colleagues; they secured the men’s doubles title to be followed by Liu Shiwen who claimed women’s singles gold.
Three titles decided; three titles in the hands of China.
Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen had gradually asserted their authority on proceedings to emerge successful in five games (11-5, 11-8, 9-11, 11-9, 11-4); very much Ma Long and Wang Chuqin did the same, they prevailed by a similar margin against Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu and Spain’s Alvaro Robles (11-3, 8-11, 11-7, 11-3, 11-4).
The newcomer to the big stage was Wang Chuqin, who in two weeks’ time will celebrate his 19th birthday but, having won both men’s singles and mixed team gold at the Buenos Aires 2019 Youth Olympic Games, he was no stranger to the pressure cooker atmosphere of a major final. Also he had the support of the seasoned 30 year old Ma Long and sitting courtside, Chen Qi, the Athens 2004 Olympic Games men’s doubles gold medallist in harness with Ma Lin.
Men’s doubles success for Ma Long, for the second time in his career, in 2011 in Rotterdam, he had partnered Xu Xin to gold; overall for China it was their 18th such success since Wang Zhiliang and Zhan Xielin prevailed in 1963 in Prague.
Silver medallist in 2013 in Paris, the same outcome two years later in Suzhou, for China’s Liu Shiwen it was third time successful. She beat colleague, Chen Meng in six games (9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 11-0, 11-8) to secure the women’s singles title and in a most appropriate city lift high the Geist Prize; the trophy having been donated by Dr Gaspar Geist in 1931, at the time the President of the Hungarian Table Tennis Association.
Eventually, as against Ding Ning the previous day in the semi-final, it was the sheer speed of Liu Shiwen that won the day, a tournament where not only did she create history by adding her name to the role of honour, she completed a unique double which will take some equalling. In the fifth game against Chen Meng she did not surrender a single point, exactly the same as the previous day against Ding Ning!
Success and it meant a full house of titles. After the agony of Moscow in 2010 when China lost to Singapore in the final, Liu Shiwen suffering against Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei, since that date Liu Shiwen has been a member of every Chinese gold medal winning outfit at a World Team Championships. Additionally in Suzhou in 2015 she partnered colleague Zhu Yuling to women’s doubles gold, before in 2017 in Düsseldorf enjoying the same success in harness with Ding Ning. In Budapest she added the mixed doubles partnering Xu Xin, now the women’s singles crown completes the collection.
She is first female player to achieve the feat since colleague Guo Yue completed the full house, partnering Li Xiaoxia to women’s doubles success ten years ago in 2009 in Yokohama.
Meanwhile, in the men’s singles semi-finals, after Ma Long had beaten Chinese national team colleague Liang Jingkun (11-8, 6-11, 11-9, 11-9, 14-12); in a contest that ebbed and flowed Mattias Falck accounted for the Korea Republic’s An Jaehyun (8-11, 11-7, 3-11, 11-4, 11-9, 2-11, 11-8).
The appearance of Ma Long in the final is not unexpected; that of Mattias Falck is a major surprise. He is a player who defies modern day thinking; short pimpled rubber on the forehand, shake-hands grip; the most recent player of major international status to use that grip and that material successfully was Canada’s Johnny Huang, some 25 years. Adopting the pen-hold style and using the short pimpled rubber on the forehand, the last great exponent was Liu Guoliang, crowned world champion 20 years ago in Eindhoven.
Surprises abundant but not in the women’s doubles event; top seeds, Hina Hayata and Mima Ito beat Japanese colleagues Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato, the no.3 seeds (11-9, 10-12, 14-16, 11-5, 11-5, 11-7) to reach the final. They were followed by Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu, the no.2 seeds, who ended the hopes of Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling, the no.4 seeds in the all Chinese clash (11-3, 11-9, 9-11, 6-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-5).
Play concludes in Budapest on Sunday 28th May, the men’s singles and women’s doubles finals closing the curtain.
By Ian Marshall, Editor
Photo Credit: ITTF