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Table Tennis: Ma Long closes in on No. 1 after 18th World Tour title

Ma Long could succeed Xu Xin as World No. 1 after beating his friend to win the Kuwait Open. Photos: ITTF.

Ma Long could succeed Xu Xin as World No. 1 after beating his friend to win the Kuwait Open. Photos: ITTF.

February 16, 2015: World No. 2 Ma Long won his 18th GAC Group World Tour title at the Kuwait Open, eight years after winning his first Tour title at the same event.

 

The 26-year-old Chinese star beat World No. 1 Xu Xin to become the first player to win the Kuwait Open twice, while also edging one win closer to Vladimir Samsonov’s record mark of 25 World Tour titles.

 

Ma was too good for his good friend, compatriot and the man he could succeed as No. 1 next month, overcoming Xu 4-1 (13-11, 3-11, 11-1, 11-7, 11-9) to collect his 18th win in 28 finals.

 

“Today I was feeling in good shape. I know Xu Xin has changed the rubber on his racket so he was not at his best today,” Ma said. “The win for me is another step towards the World Championships, but now I will take a few days off for the Chinese New Year.”

 

Xu suffered another loss when he and compatriot Zhang Jike, the World No. 4, lost 3-1 (11-8, 11-7, 3-11, 13-11) to Taiwanese duo Chiang Hung-chieh and Huang Sheng-sheng in the men’s doubles final.

 

Li Xiaoxia, the 2012 Olympic champion, defeated World No. 1 Ding (CHN) 4-1 (11-5, 11-8, 11-4, 8-11, 11-5) in the women’s final, avenging a defeat to her compatriot in last year’s Women’s World Cup Final. The 27-year-old’s victory was her first at the Kuwait Open and her 10th World Tour title.

 

“I’ve not been able to practise for the past few months, as I’ve had a back injury. It’s only a few days ago that I was really able to practise properly,” Li said. “As the tournament progressed, I felt I was playing better and better. Of course, I’m focused on the World Championships and hope to achieve a good result there.”

 

Ding and Zhu Yuling of China beat Han Ying and Irene Ivancan of Germany 3-0 (11-3, 11-6, 11-9) in the women’s doubles final, while Zhai Yujia of Denmark Doo Hoi-kem of Hong Kong won the men’s and women’s under-21 titles respectively.

 

The next stop on the World Tour is the Qatar Open, another Super Series event, which starts on Tuesday.

 

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

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