Sport Asia
Don't Miss

Table Tennis: China complete World Team Cup double in Dubai

China’s Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen, World Nos. 1 and 2, beat North Korea’s Kim Hye-song and Ri Mi-gyong in the concluding match of the women’s final. Photos: ITTF.

China’s Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen, World Nos. 1 and 2, beat North Korea’s Kim Hye-song and Ri Mi-gyong in the concluding match of the women’s final. Photos: ITTF.

January 12, 2015: China completed an ITTF World Team Cup double on Sunday when their women’s and men’s teams beat North Korea and Austria respectively in the finals at the Al-Nasr Sports Club in Dubai.

 

Li Xiaoxia, the World No. 3, extended her record as the competition’s most successful player by claiming her fifth World Team Cup title, despite not being able to play due to a knee injury.

 

China – who boast the top three players in the women’s ranking – beat North Korea 3-0, but the scoreline didn’t tell the full story as World No. 2 Liu Shiwen and No. 6 Zhu Yuling were each pushed to five games in the opening singles matches.

 

Liu led Ri Mi-gyong 2-0, but lost the next two games before edging the decider to win 3-2 (11-7, 11-4, 10-12, 9-11, 11-9) to the delight of the Chinese in the crowd. Zhu, competing in her first World Team Cup, twice fell behind to Ri Myong-sun, North Korea’s top-ranked player, before the youngster came back to win 3-2 (7-11, 11-6, 9-11, 14-12, 11-5).

 

Liu Shiwen suffered a scare before beating Ri Mi-gyong 3-0.

Liu Shiwen suffered a scare before beating Ri Mi-gyong 3-0.

Liu and World No. 1 Ding Ning then teamed up to beat Ri Mi-gyong and Kim Hye-song 3-0 (11-2, 12-10, 11-9) in the concluding doubles match.

 

Ding, named the Female Table Tennis Star at the 2014 Dubai ITTF Star Awards held earlier in the week, admitted the defending champions were shaken by North Korea, who were competing in the event for the first time since 1991.

 

“It was a tough match, tougher than we expected,” said the 24-year-old Ding. “I have to congratulate my teammates for winning their crucial matches to give us a 2-0 lead before I played the doubles. It was not easy for them, so I am proud of them. This event was also a good chance to give our younger players such as Zhu Yuling a chance to play on the biggest stage and she did very well. This title means a lot to us.”

 

Zhu, who only turned 20 on Saturday, was excited to win the World Team Cup for the first time and, like Ding, admitted North Korea had proven tougher than anticipated.

 

“I am very happy that I have won my first World Team Cup and I look forward to many more titles in the future,” Zhu said. “My match was a big battle, so I had to keep my patience and take my chances. I was surprised at her level and I think they are now a strong challenger to China.”

 

Despite the modest rankings of Ri Myong-sun (World No. 24), Ri Mi-gyong (No. 60) and Kim (No. 111), the North Korea team strengthened their reputation on the world stage and vowed to build on the result.

 

“We have great memories from here and battled hard in the final,” said Ri Mi-gyong. “We had chances, but we could not quite do it. We will take inspiration from this event and use it as motivation to take our team forward in the future.”

 

 The China men’s team celebrate after beating Austria 3-0 in the final.

The China men’s team celebrate after beating Austria 3-0 in the final.

The China men’s team downed Austria – the first European team to reach the final since 1995 – in more straightforward fashion as the top seeds also recorded a 3-0 win in the final.

 

Teenager Fan Zhendong, the World No. 3, beat Daniel Habesohn 3-0 (11-3, 11-5, 11-8) before Zhang Jike had a tougher battle in overcoming Robert Gardos 3-0 (11-7, 12-10, 12-10), with the Austria No. 1 recovering from 8-2 down in the third to draw level at 10-10.

 

Zhang, the reigning world and Olympic champion, and World No. 1 Xu Xin then teamed up to beat Habesohn and Stefan Fegerl 3-0 (11-3, 11-7, 11-9).

 

Xu said: “This victory means a lot to our team and one more major world title for us. The World Team Cup is similar to the Olympic Games in terms of the playing system and this will probably be the last time we compete in this system before the Olympics, so this is a very valuable opportunity for us. Austria did very well. We hope they continue to get stronger and push us harder next time.”

 

Fan, 17, celebrated his first World Team Cup title, but warned that China would never suffer from complacency.

 

“We played well here in Dubai and our results prove our hard work and efforts have paid off well,” Fan said. “However, we still can’t let our guard down as competition is getting tougher internationally. Other national teams are training hard and getting stronger, so it’s important for us to train even harder to maintain our edge over the rest.”

 

Germany and Chinese Taipei won the bronze in the men’s event, while Singapore and Japan took home bronze in the women’s.

 

This year’s GAC Group World Tour kicks off in Hungary on January 28.

 

Source: ITTF (www.ittf.com); Editing by SportAsia

You must be logged in to post a comment Login