Authority asserted; finalists decided in imposing fashion
Imperious performances, such was the outcome at the semi-final stage of both the men’s and women’s events at the Bank of Communications 2020 ITTF Finals in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou on Saturday 21st November; quite simply the host nation’s star names asserted authority.
In the women’s event, straight games outcomes was the scenario as Chen Meng, the top seed, beat colleague Sun Yingsha, the no.3 seed (11-9, 11-8, 11-8, 12-10), before Wang Manyu, the no.4 seed, ended the aspirations of the invader from foreign shores. In an even more authoritative manner, she accounted for Japan’s Mima Ito, the no.2 seed (11-3, 11-4, 11-9, 11-6).
Meanwhile, the men’s event, life was little different, the eventual victors, Fan Zhendong and Ma Long affording minimal charity. Fan Zhendong, the top seed, halted the aspirations of Korea Republic’s Jang Woojin, the no.14 seed (11-8, 11-4, 13-15, 11-8, 11-5); concluding the day Ma Long, the no.3 seed, overcame Xu Xin, the no.2 seed, in a similarly comprehensive manner (11-13, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8, 11-7).
Success for Wang Manyu and Ma Long was contrary to seeding, arguably a surprise but not according to reality. Ma Long versus Xu Xin is always in the boiling pot, they are colleagues, they practise together, they know each other inside out.
However, for Ma Long there was undoubtedly a hint of satisfaction; in their most recent meeting, the men’s singles final in early February at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum German Open, Xu Xin had won in four straight games (15-13, 11-8, 11-7, 11-5). It was a very different story in Zhengzhou.
Overall, since prevailing on the ITTF World Tour in 2009 in Denmark, Ma Long has now won 22 of the 32 encounters on the international stage against Xu Xin.
Most certainly, it was a most impressive performance from Ma Long, it was even more impressive from Wang Manyu.
Despite the seeding Wang Manyu started the favourite, she had won eight of the ten previous meetings in world ranking events against Mima Ito but she had lost the most recent; on the 2019 ITTF World Tour in Sweden, Mima Ito had prevailed in the quarter-final encounter. The surprise factor was the margin of victory, Mima Ito won just 22 points!
Superlative performances, it was the same from Chen Meng against Sun Yingsha; the lady at the top of the world rankings succeeded in an even more emphatic manner than their most recent meeting earlier in the month at the Dishang 2020 Women’s World Cup. On that occasion victory was in five games (11-13, 11-6, 11-9, 11-6, 11-8); in Zhengzhou it was without a hiccup.
Similarly, for Fan Zhendong it was déjà vu; at the semi-final stage of the Dishang 2020 Men’s World Cup, Fan Zhendong had beaten Jang Woojin in straight games (11-5, 11-8, 13-11, 11-8). In Zhengzhou, he took one game more.
Nevertheless, Jang Woojin could reflect on a second successive most worthwhile venture; for a player presently listed at no.25 on the world ranking, back-to-back semi-finals in tournaments in which the very elite were in duty was a stunning performance.
Both men’s and women’s finals will be played on Sunday 22nd November.
Editor: Ian Marshall