by Sportswriter Wang Jimin

World No. 1 Ma Long from China won his first men’s singles world table tennis championship as he defeated teammate and giant-killer Fang Bo 4-2 (11-7, 7-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-13, 11-4) on Sunday. tennis
Ma, who was stopped at the semifinals three times in 2009, 2011 and 2013 tournaments, finally seized the best possible chance to get past unknown Fang for the most coveted crown at these championships.
“It’s like a dream come true. After all these days sometimes it was like a torture because I had about seven matches in six days. At the end of the day I think all the torture was worth it,” said Ma.
Ma is the 11th world men’s singles champion from China, which has won the event 17 times with Zhuang Zedong and Wang Liqin most titled with three each.
Fang could leave with his head held high as the world No. 14 was a true dark horse who stunned world No. 2 Xu Xin in the fourth round and then the twice defending champion Zhang Jike in the semifinals.
“I told Ma Long many times in Beijing that we would like to meet in the final and it came true,” said Fang, who has been troubled with injuries through years.
The 23-year-old Fang managed to steal two sets and produce some dicey moments in others while playing against the 26-year-old Ma.
But a much more experienced Ma could always raise his game much above the level and pulled away when it counted.
“Fang played a very tough game tonight. I was fully prepared for the final since he defeated Zhang Jike in the semis. It’s not easy to play against him but I can always stay calm during the match,” Ma said of the match.
Fang got off to a great start in the first set, building a four-point lead and looking like he wasn’t going to be intimidated by the pre-tournament favorite.
The lead was short-lived. From 2-6, Ma went on a run like always, reeling off next nine of 10 points to take the set.
Fang again started well in the second set with a two-point edge. Ma kept it close and evened it 7-all before Fang had a run of his own, winning the last four points to take the set.
But Fang lost consistency immediately and dropped the third set 4-11.
With 1-2 behind in sets and 5-7 down in the fourth, Fang took a timeout in hopes of arresting Ma’s momentum, but Ma pushed the game out of Fang’s reach, winning 11-8.
Ma went up 5-2 in the fifth set, shouting for every point, but Fang was not done yet.
The two traded points until Fang won three in a row to give himself a set point at 10-9 but he could not seal it.
At 11-11, the players performed the best rally of the tournament, blasting away shot after shot, and Fang won it, giving himself one more set point which he converted to stay alive.
But Ma was unstoppable in the sixth set as he never looked back after snatching a big lead.
While Zhang Jike, Ma’s major rival over years, has completed a career Grand Slam of the world championships, World Cup and Olympic singles titles, Ma still needs an Olympic gold medal to finish his own.
“With the Rio Games one year out, anything could happen,” he said. “I think I still have room to improve, I can be much stronger. I must try my best in training and competition. My priority is to get a ticket to Rio.” Enditem

Source: Xinhua


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