Men's Singles -Seamaster 23rd ITTF- Asian Table Tennis Championships 2017
SEAMASTER 2017 ASIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Sunday 16th April
Fan Zhendong retains title, ends brave Korean challenge
Winner two years ago in Pattaya when beating colleague Xu Xin in the final, on Sunday 16th April, on home soil in the Wuxi Stadium, China’s Fan Zhendong retained the precious title.
Impressively he beat Korea Republic’s Jeong Sangeun to once again stand tall on the top step of the podium.
Currently a player with no World Ranking, Jeong Sangeun had exceeded all expectations to reach the final.
The potential had displayed in Palo Alto in 2007 when winning the Boys’ Singles title at the World Junior Championships came to fruition but against his successor of five years later in Hyderabad, it was a step too far.
“It’s been a tiring but happy trip here for the Asian Championships. I’ve never thought whether I will win or lose, or who my opponent will be, I was just trying to play each and every match to my best.” Jeong Sangeun
Fan Zhendong, 20 years old, seven years younger than Jeong Sangeun held the aces; his incredible ability to return the ball when all seems lost evident. He dominated the opening two games but in the third was tested by Jeong Sangeun who after taking a “Time Out” when trailing 3-6, he recovered to level at 8-all.
The mind sped back to earlier in the day when he had saved match point after match point against Japan’s Koki Niwa; could he do the same in the final and mount a recovery of epic proportions? The answer was in the negative; Fan Zhendong closed the door firmly, not one further point was surrendered by the Chinese star.
“Jeong has had a good tournament in both the team and singles events, defeating my teammate Ma Long and earlier today, coming back with three straight games to beat Koki Niwa. I didn’t expect that I would win three-nil in the final, I came into the match mentally prepared for any difficulty and came with the mindset to fight for every point. We faced some upsets from others in the tournament but that shouldn’t be something for me to be thinking about; it’s beyond my control. Instead, I was focusing more on my opponent, his strategies and my own mindset in the final.” Fan Zhendong
It is the 20th time in what is now 23 editions of the tournament that China has provided the winner; the last time a player not representing China won the event was when Chinese Taipei’s Chiang Peng-Lung prevailed in 2000 in Doha.
Also it was the first time for over a decade that the Men’s Singles final has not been contested by two players representing the People’s Republic of China; the last occasion was in 2005 when Wang Liqin beat Hong Kong’s Li Ching in Jeju-do, Korea.
In Wuxi, Fan Zhendong had the expectations of his nation on his shoulders; he has broad shoulders, he responded, once again the champion, once again he stood proudly on the top step of the medal podium.
Fan Zhendong, the champion, waved farewell with a bright smile on his face.
SEAMASTER 2017 ITTF ASIAN CHAMPIONSHIPS
Saturday 15th April
Stunned fans end day in buoyant mood
In the Men’s Singles event, the defeat of Ma Long by Korea’s Jeong Sangeun and Xu Xin at the hands of Koki Niwa had caused a sense of disbelief but at the end of the day one man delivered the goods; for the concluding day of play there is a sense of anticipation.
The stadium will be packed to the rafters; not doubt 90 per cent will be screaming girls yelling the name “Zhang Jike, Zhang Jike, Zhang Jike”.
At the quarter-final stage of the Men’s Singles event, the no.4 seed, he beat colleague Lin Gaoyuan, the no.13 seed, in a tension packed five games duel (11-7, 6-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-7); the crucial stage of the contest being in the third game. He led 10-8, Lin Gaoyuan won the next point; Zhang Jike elected for “Time Out” but the decision did immediately bear fruit. Level at 10-all, the next two points went to the 2012 Olympic champion and the Wuxi Stadium erupted.
Spare a thought for Lin Gaoyuan, who has not been selected for the Chinese Team in recent years but will be on duty at the forthcoming Liebherr 2017 World Championships; I heard not one cry in his favour from the excited fans. He must have thought he was playing on foreign soil and he was not a native of the host nation.
Zhang Jike, supported to the hilt, emerged successful and I wonder is the adulation doing him not favours? Is it just too much?
However, I must pay great credit to the 29 year old London 2012 Olympic champion.
There was a determination to succeed, a real determination, Zhang Jike fought tooth and nail for every point. If there is an argument that sometimes on the international scene we have seen lack lustre performances from the man who has won the biggest titles in sport, there was nothing lacking in his approach against Lin Gaoyuan.
He was single minded throughout; that demeanour suggests that we can anticipate a battle royal on the concluding day when he meets, colleague Fan Zhendong, the no.2 seed, at the semi-final stage.
The defending champion, he beat Hong Kong’s Lam Siu Hang in straight games (11-3, 11-4, 11-8); the only moment of concern for coach Qin Zhijian sitting courtside being in the third game when Fan Zhendong trailed 6-8. Qin Zhijian called “Time Out”, the advice was sound; Fan Zhendong did not lose another point!
Defeat for Lam Siu Hang but not seeded, a quarter-final finish was more than could have been anticipated.
In the opposite half of the draw; the giant killers meet, Jeong Sangeun faces Koki Niwa in the contest that will set the concluding day in motion.
Play starts at 1.00pm (local time) on Sunday 16th April.