x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Table tennis: Xu Xin tops Ma Long to win ITTF World Tour Grand Finals

Xu Xin and Ma Long produced seven sets of the finest table tennis ever seen in the UAE to send Xin, the 2012 winner, back to China with his championship title intact, reports Gary Meenaghan.

Xu Xin  serves to Ma Long on Sunday in the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour Grand Finals. Satish Kumar / The National
Xu Xin serves to Ma Long on Sunday in the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Tour Grand Finals. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Xu Xin is 24 years old, Xu Xin is the World No 2 in his chosen sport, Xu Xin has 1.3 million followers on Weibo and Xu Xin remains – as of Sunday night – the 2013 ITTF World Tour Grand ­Finals champion. If you have never heard of him, look him up on YouTube.

Yesterday at Al Nasr Sports Club, Xu Xin defeated the World No 1 Ma Long in a mind-bogglingly fast-paced men’s singles final.

Ma Long, as well as being the top-ranked player in table tennis, is also the most successful male in the history of the World Tour Grand Finals. (He is also worth a peek on YouTube)

Put the two Chinese athletes on either side of a table and what will occur, as about 1,000 spectators got to witness in Dubai, is ­staggering.

Xu Xin and Ma Long produced seven sets of the finest table tennis ever seen in the UAE to send Xin, the 2012 winner, back to China with his championship ­title intact.

“For the past year, all my teammates have worked very, very hard and I’m just happy to win the final game of 2013,” said Xin, whose only previous win this season came in South Korea.

“My focus now changes to the World Team Championships and the Asian Games. I want to keep going and want to show the world what I am all about.”

Performances such as last night’s will help.

Xu Xin dominated the game’s No 1 player to take the first set 11-8 before Ma Long fought back to win the second in a tiebreaker.

Xu Xin won comfortably again; Ma Long squared the tie once more. When Xu Xin took the fifth set 11-5, victory looked inevitable, but he lost focus and Ma Long produced his best play of the match to take it to a seventh set.

With the pressure on, Xu Xin found another level. He raced to a 10-3 lead and finally won 11-5 after the two players started showboating to please the crowd in the final points.

“Myself and Ma Long know each other’s games very well so it was always going to be about who could be the most relaxed in the match and who would have the most confidence,” said Xin, who collected a winner’s cheque for US$104,000 (Dh380,000).

Ma Long said: “Every game is a new challenge, so while I am disappointed not to have won, I am looking forward to many new challenges in 2014.”

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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