Now two years ago to the day, on Thursday 25thApril, at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest, China’s Ma Long beat Brazil’s Hugo Calderano, in the fourth round of the men’s singles event.
He emerged successful in five games; a creditable performance, the young man from Rio de Janeiro matched the best any other player in the tournament achieved against the champion elect.
The fact that Ma Long was never extended in any round beyond five games pays great credit to his achievement in Hungary’s capital city.
Success in imposing style for the defending champion against a Brazilian but what is now 60 years ago, at the 1961 World Championships staged in Beijing from Wednesday 5th to Friday 14thApril, one round earlier it was defeat for China’s defending world champion at the hands of a Brazilian.
After recording straight games wins against England’s Jeff Ingber and Nigeria’s Alagbala, Rong Guotan was beaten by Ubiraci Rodrigues da Costa, always known as Biriba. He experienced defeat in five games (19-21, 21-18, 15-21, 21-16, 21-15).
“I lost the first game 21-19 after being ahead 17-16, I was feeling emotional; I managed to win the second game but then I lost the third”, recalled Biriba. “However, I started to become confident, I played wide, side to side; after the match people said I had the chance to be the champion, but I was too young.”
To this day, it stands as one of the biggest upsets in the history of the World Championships; at the time Biriba was only 15 years old! Can you name any player of such an age who could beat Ma Long when the 2021 World Championships are held later this year in Houston?
Defeat for China in 1961 but they had the last laugh; they occupied all three steps of the medal podium.
Hu Daoben was beaten in the very next round, the quarter-final, by Li Furong. At the same stage the Japanese challenge came to an end, Zhang Xielinaccounted for Miki Keiichi, Zhuang Zedong ended the hopes of Ichiro Ogimura. In the one remaininglast eight contest, in an all China affair, Xu Yinsheng overcame Tan Cholin.
Eventually, Zhuang Zedong emerged successful, beating Xu Yinxheng followed by Li Furong to seal the title; in the counterpart semi-final, Li Furongdefeated Zhang Xielin.