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Table Tennis: China rally to retain Asian Games team titles

China’s Xu Xin (far left), Zhang Jike (second left) and Ma Long (centre) overpowered hosts Korea in the men’s team final at the Asian Games. Photos: ITTF.

China’s Xu Xin (far left), Zhang Jike (second left) and Ma Long (centre) overpowered hosts Korea in the men’s team final at the Asian Games in Incheon. Photos: ITTF.

September 30, 2014: China retained their men’s and women’s team titles at the Asian Games on Tuesday with dominating performances over hosts South Korea and Japan respectively at the Suwon Gymnasium in Incheon.

 

Represented by Ma Long, Xu Xin and Zhang Jike, the world’s top-three ranked players, the China men’s team disappointed 5,000 screaming Korean fans by defeating the home team 3-0 to clinch gold.

 

The first match between Ma Long and Joo Sae-hyuk was a classic attack versus defence duel, with both players the masters of their styles. Joo thrilled the crowd by magically getting every ball back from seemingly impossible positions, but Ma was too good, the World No. 3 prevailing 3-1 (11-9, 11-9, 10-12, 17-15).

 

“Overall I felt that I played well,” Ma said. “Joo was playing at a very high level, coupled with his home-ground advantage. I have never seen him play so well in the last few years, so I was shocked and I’m glad I was prepared for him. This victory was reward for my hard work and preparation.”

 

After losing the opener, Korea had the wind knocked out of them and the next two matches were over quickly. World No. 1 Xu defeated Lee Jung-woo 3-0 (11-3, 11-5, 11-6) and Zhang clinched the gold for China by winning 3-0 (11-1, 11-9, 11-7).

 

Zhang, the reigning Olympic and world champion, was relieved he didn’t repeat his poor performance in the recent World Team Championship final, where he lost to Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

 

“I’m happy with my performance,” said Zhang, the World No. 2. “I was in good form and able to draw lessons from the loss at the World Team Championships, which is satisfying. I now feel I’m a better player.”

 

Ding Ning (far left), Zhu Yuling (second right) and World No. 1 Liu Shiwen (far right) led China to a 3-1 victory over Japan in the women’s final.

Ding Ning (far left), Zhu Yuling (second right) and World No. 1 Liu Shiwen (far right) led China to a 3-1 victory over Japan.

In the women’s final against Japan, the rejuvenated Ai Fukuhara caused the biggest upset of the Asian Games so far by beating World No. 2 Ding Ning 3-1 (11-6, 11-9, 3-11, 15-13).

 

For the China team, the loss revived memories of the 2010 ITTF World Team Championships in Moscow, the last time China lost a major title and where Ding also lost the opening match. Despite Fukuhara’s heroics, Japan could not match Singapore’s famous victory four years ago and lost 3-1 to the world champions.

 

“I have never beaten Ding Ning before,” Fukuhara said. “This is my first victory against her, so I was really excited after winning. The 1-0 lead was an advantage for us, but the Chinese team was stronger and eventually made a comeback.”

 

World No. 1 Liu Shiwen recovered from a game down to beat Kasumi Ishikawa 3-1 (3-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-8) and Zhu Yuling was too strong for 13-year-old Miu Hirano, winning 3-0 (11-8, 11-4, 11-3). Ding then made amends for her earlier loss by beating Ishikawa 3-0 (11-6, 11-7, 11-5), with the tall left-hander securing the gold medal.

 

“This scenario reminded me of Moscow 2010 where I lost my first match and we ended up losing the gold to Singapore. I was cheering on my teammates during the second and third matches to make sure they won, before even thinking about my next match,” Ding said. “I’m very satisfied with the results. We did what we came here to do, which is the most important thing. I’m very happy to add another gold to my collection.”

 

Singapore and Korea DPR won the bronze in the women’s team event, while Japan and Chinese Taipei claimed bronze in the men’s. The mixed doubles, women’s doubles, men’s doubles, women’s singles and men’s singles will all be held this week.

 

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

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