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Table Tennis: Ma makes Grand Finals history; Ding breaks ‘curse’

Ma Long overcame an inspired Fan Zhendong to win his fourth Grand Finals title. Photo: ITTF.

Ma Long overcame an inspired Fan Zhendong to win his fourth Grand Finals title. Photo: ITTF.

December 14, 2015: World No. 1 Ma Long won a fourth ITTF World Tour Grand Finals title in dramatic circumstances in Lisbon, Portugal, to become the tournament’s most successful player. Ding Ning won the women’s title at the season-ending event, ending a run of defeats in four finals.

 

Ma has only lost one match this year, but the world champion had a titanic battle with teenage compatriot Fan Zhendong, 18, in one of the most exciting finals in history.

 

Ma raced to a 2-0 lead only for Fan to win the next three games, before the favourite bounced back to close out the match 4-3 (12-10, 12-10, 11-13, 7-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9).

 

“We had a tough match. The feeling wasn’t the best for both of us and neither of us could lead in the match. I had to just stay calm, as I knew I would have a chance to win the match if I just kept my level high,” Ma said.

 

Ma beat the record of Grand Finals won by Wang Liqin, his former captain. “Wang Liqin is a well respected athlete, so I’m happy to have made this history. I wasn’t thinking much about the records, but just played the best I could.”

 

Ding Ning, also a reigning world champion, won her first Grand Finals title after losing in the final four times. Despite being exhausted after a packed year, Ding made it fifth time lucky and defeated her teammate Chen Meng, who earlier beat World No. 1 Liu Shiwen en route to the final. The 25-year-old was pushed by her younger teammate, but eventually won 4-2 (13-11, 10-12, 11-7, 11-2, 9-11, 11-7).

 

“I have made it to the World Tour Grand Finals Singles final for the past four times, but lost all four and this was my fifth attempt,” Ding said.

 

“Before the match, I have a strong desire for victory and to break the ‘curse’. Since I started playing in the ITTF World Tour, every time I qualified for the Grand Finals, I could always reach the final, so I really hoped to win. Now that I have won, I feel really happy about it.”

 

Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima became the first Japanese pair to win the men’s doubles title. The young Japanese duo broke the hearts of the capacity Portuguese crowd, beating local favourites Tiago Apolonia and Joao Monteiro 4-1 (11-6, 8-11,13-11, 12-10, 11-8) in a thrilling gold medal match.

 

The women’s defending champions, 15-year-olds Miu Hirano and Mima Ito, could not make it two doubles victories for Japan, losing to the Ding and Zhu Yuling 4-0 (11-5, 11-3, 11-9, 11-4) in a one sided final.

 

The tournament was the finale to the US$3 million ITTF World Tour, whereby the top 16 singles and 8 doubles pairs qualified through collecting #Race2Lisbon points.

 

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

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