Crowns for MA Long and DING NingPhoto: Rémy Gros ITTF
GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals
World champion, World Cup victor; MA Long added to his list of successes by winning the Men’s Singles title at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in the Portuguese capital city of Lisbon on the evening of Sunday 13th December. Success at the fifth attempt, the runner up on four previous occasions, at last DING Ning won the Women’s Singles title at a Grand Finals.
The top seed, at the final hurdle, MA Long beat Chinese National Team colleague, FAN Zhendong, the no.3 seed, to arrest the title in a scintillating final that will live long in the memory of those present in the Pavilhão Multiusos de Odivelas.
He succeeded by the very narrowest of seven game margins (12-10, 12-10, 11-13, 7-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9).
Success and success or the fourth time means that MA Long becomes the most successful in the history of the tournament which first saw the light of day in Tianjin in 1996. He moves one ahead of his now retired colleague WANG Liqin, the one other player who, prior to matters commencing in Lisbon, had won three times. WANG Liqin emerged successful in Paris in 1998, the following year in Kobe before regaining the title in 2004 in Beijing.
On the evening of Sunday, DING Ning, the no.4 seed, beat Chinese National Team compatriot, Chen Meng, the no.10 seed, to arrest the title. She won in six games (13-11, 10-12, 11-7, 11-2, 9-11, 11-7) and thus ended a sequence of being the runner up.
Prior to the duel in Lisbon, she had reached the final on four occasions; on each occasion she had been the bridesmaid.
At the 2009 Grand Finals in Macau, when only 19 years old, she had been beaten by her more experienced compatriot Guo Yan, before on three consecutive occasions experiencing defeat at the hands of Liu Shiwen, likewise from China.
She was beaten by Liu Shiwen in London in 2011, the following year in Hangzhou before at the 2013 Grand Finals, staged in January 2014 in Dubai once again having to give second best to her colleague.