Xu Xin the first ever to retain ITTF World Tour Australian Open singles crownPhoto: ITTF
He is nicknamed XU-perman for a reason! Anyone who has had the privilege of watching Xu Xin at work will have seen his seemingly supernatural powers come to the fore on court with his eye-catching playing style. The master of the penhold grip is arguably the greatest entertainer in the modern game. Right now, the Chinese star is also very much the man to beat in his sport, having sewn up his third men's singles title in as many ITTF World Tour events during the last month. Xu followed up success in Japan and Korea with gold on Sunday in Geelong, Australia: the setting of the seventh event in this year's ITTF World Tour series.
Indeed this latest triumph sees Xu – also nicknamed 'The Cloudwalker' – basking in Seventh Heaven. The world no.1 is playing true to the status he acquired at the start of the month and has created history in the process. He is now the first ever player to defend a singles crown at the Australian Open, one year on from celebrating in Geelong – a place where his fan following was clear to see, as deafening cheers met him off court amidst the many selfies and smiles. After all, the audience within Geelong Arena had been entertained by XU-perman himself!
"I felt like I was still wearing my championship crown from last year and I think this helped. People felt happy that I came back here and I am very happy that they cheered for me. It is quite extraordinary that I could get such treatment overseas. I was enjoying it.
"You get into good shape through competing, one match after another. I did not think about winning three straight championships. I just do what I need to do, to be active and switched on." Xu Xin
Xu clinched men's singles gold on Sunday by defeating Wang Chuqin (CHN) 4-0 in the final (11-6, 11-8, 11-4, 11-8). His teenage opponent entered the match looking to upset the odds again after defeating the legendary Ma Long (CHN) earlier in the day. However, Xu was a man on a mission and he kept his focus throughout the contest to see out victory in straight games.
He made it look routine, but the potential banana skin was there. Wang is playing the best table tennis of his budding career to date, the 19-year-old undoubtedly China's most exciting young talent in the men's game. Add to that the fact that Xu had little over an hour to prepare following his marathon match against Patrick Franziska (GER) in their semi-final, which will go down as one of the most gripping encounters of recent times (11-7, 5-11, 11-6, 6-11, 6-11, 11-9, 12-10).
Xu's exploits this weekend were in no way ordinary. They verged on the superhuman and his celebratory cry after clinching that epic comeback victory over Franziska, in which he also needed to survive a match point in the final game, was recognition of his quite incredible exertions on this emotional rollercoaster ride Down Under.
If it weren't for Xu Xin's excellence, Wang Chuqin would have justifiably dominated the headlines after knocking out Ma Long in most impressive fashion in Sunday's semi-final (11-8, 6-11, 11-4, 8-11, 11-7, 11-8). Despite being pegged back twice during the match, the 2018 Youth Olympic gold medallist always looked in control of his destiny, showing a maturity that belies his 19 years of age.
Wang may not have taken the ultimate prize this weekend, but he leaves Geelong having reached his first ever final of an ITTF World Tour Platinum event and having defeated his boyhood idol, Ma Long. A bright future surely awaits.
What a year this is proving to be for Sun Yingsha (CHN). The rising star of the women's game dominated Sunday's women's singles final from start to finish against compatriot Ding Ning.
Her straight games victory (11-1, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9) was the fruit of a typically powerful performance by the 18-year-old, who avenged her semi-final defeat to Ding at last week's Korea Open. This is her second title on the 2019 ITTF World Tour after success last month in Sapporo, Japan. For Ding, this was her second straight final loss after missing out on gold in Busan to Chen Meng. Nevertheless, the 'Queen of Hearts' confirmed her status of 'Queen of Comebacks' after holding her nerve to fight back from 3-2 down against Mima Ito (JPN) in their absorbing semi-final (11-3, 8-11, 11-4, 8-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-8).
Not only Xu Xin rewrote the record books this week, as Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu (KOR) became the first ever pair to defend a doubles title at the Australian Open.
The dynamic duo were quick to secure their gold medals on Saturday, taking under half an hour to complete a 3-0 victory over Ma Long and Lin Gaoyuan (CHN) (11-6, 11-8, 11-6).
In the women's doubles, last week's Korea Open champions, Chen Meng and Wang Manyu (CHN) celebrated gold again, winning 3-1 over Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun (KOR) (11-6, 11-3, 8-11, 11-6).
The mixed doubles title went to Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem (HKG) after a commanding performance and 3-1 victory against Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito (JPN) (5-11, 13-11, 11-8, 11-9).
China may have won both singles titles on Sunday, but this was an event which saw players from across the world showcase their talent on the global stage.
Patrick Franziska's epic performances saw the German come within one point of reaching his first ITTF World Tour final in two years. Prior to his narrow loss to Xu Xin, he produced a miraculous fightback against Mattias Falck (SWE) over seven scintillating games. In the round of 16, Franziska shocked world no.3 Fan Zhendong (CHN), coming from 2-0 down to win 4-2.
Franziska wasn't the only player to provide Xu with a scare either. At the quarter-final stage, Hugo Calderano (BRA) battled wonderfully and threatened to come back from 3-0 down to take the match right to the wire, before the world no.1 had other ideas, eventually ending the contest after six pulsating games.
In the women's singles, Mima Ito and Kasumi Ishikawa (JPN) also played key roles in the narrative, reaching the semi-finals and claiming important scalps in the process, not least Ishikawa's defeat of world no.1 Chen Meng in the quarter-final.
Meanwhile in the men's doubles, unseeded pair Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Amalraj Anthony (IND) shocked no.3 seeds Jang Woojin and Lim Jonghoon (KOR) to reach the semi-finals, adding further proof of India's rising competitiveness at the top level.
The next event on the ITTF World Tour will be the Bulgaria Open, taking place between 13-18 August. Stay up to date on ITTF.com, watch live matches on itTV and be entertained on ITTF social:
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