Grand Slam Champion MA Long defends Men's Singles crown in Doha, QatarPhoto: ITTF
Rio 2016 Olympic Champion MA Long (CHN) is one step closer to breaking the most number of World Tour Singles titles record, set by Belarussian legend Vladimir SAMSONOV at 26 titles, with his victory at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open today, 26 February 2017, in Doha.
MA defended his crown against compatriot FAN Zhendong with a 4-2 (11-8, 11-8, 11-7, 5-11, 6-11, 11-4) win to achieve his career 23rd Men's Singles World Tour title in a domineering fashion.
Amidst the cheers of "Jia you" from fans who flew in to Qatar to support their favorite table tennis stars, the Chinese duo engaged in a six-games thriller, with MA dominating the first half of the match, racing to a 3-0 lead over his opponent. FAN's attempts to turn the table in his favor were in vain, as the 20-year-old was unable to maintain his momentum to push the match into a decider after winning two games off the Olympic Champion, and lost the sixth game to surrender the match.
"Today I think the both of us performed very well. I was very proactive at the start and established a 3-0 lead. In the third and fourth game, Fan Zhendong had changed his strategy. I know the sixth game is crucial - so I changed my strategy as well," shared MA who now has a 10-1 victory record over FAN.
The Grand Slam Champion added that "I'm very happy with the title. It's my first international event of the year. I won my first title of 2016 in Qatar as well and moved on to win more and even became the Olympic Champion, so I hope that retaining this title in Qatar will be another good start into 2017 for me."
The Women's Singles final was another all-Chinese affair between 2016 World Team Champion CHEN Meng against two-time (2014 & 2015) World Junior Champion WANG Manyu.
Despite having a tough start into the match, CHEN was able to use her experience to good use to take control in the match over WANG and claimed the title 4-1 (12-10, 11-9, 11-6, 2-11, 11-6).
"We are teammates so we know each other very well, so it's a very tough match. Especially in the first two games, I only won by a narrow margin of 2 points in both games, it was tedious mentally as well to take those 2 games," stated the 23-year-old. "The first two games was crucial, so after winning those, it was easier for the remaining of the match."
Rivals in the singles competition, CHEN and WANG teamed up for the first time in Qatar to take home the Women's Doubles title from top seeded JEON Jihee and YANG Haeun with a 3-1 (11-4, 11-6, 4-11, 11-6) victory in the final.
Champions at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour India Open last week in New Delhi, Japan's Masataka MORIZONO and Yuya OSHIMA continued their winning streak to add another Men's Doubles title to their name in Doha. The duo secured a 3-1 (9-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-9) victory against Swedish pair Kristian KARLSSON and Mattias KARLSSON who had caused a first round upset against tournament favorites MA Long and ZHANG Jike.
The next Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour will be held in Incheon, Korea, from 20-23 April 2017.