Fan Zhendong equals record with fourth Men's World Cup title
Fan Zhendong retained his crown at the Dishang 2020 ITTF Men's World Cup on Sunday 15 November in Weihai, China. The world no.1 and top seed overcame fellow Chinese star, Ma Long, the no.2 seed, in a thrilling seven-game final (3-11, 11-8, 11-3, 11-6, 7-11, 7-11, 11-9) to clinch his third consecutive Men's World Cup title and fourth in total. In doing so, Fan drew level with the record set by compatriot Ma Lin.
On all five occasions when competing, Fan has reached the final, the only loss being on debut in 2015 in Halmstad when beaten by Ma Long. On his next four appearances, he has always won, taking gold in 2016 in Saarbrucken, 2018 in Paris and 2019 in Chengdu. No other player has ever won the Men's World Cup in three straight years.
"I would like to thank the Local Organising Committee and the ITTF who, under such difficult circumstances, managed to pull off one of the biggest events like the World Cup. I would also like to thank my team. Despite this pandemic, we could continue to train at a very high level. After eight months without international events, I didn't feel very rusty or unable to do what I set out to," said Fan Zhendong.
Fan's journey in Weihai began with an opening-round win over Chinese Taipei's 39-year-old Chuang Chih-Yuan, the no.17 seed, before a quarter-final victory against 19-year-old Lin Yun-Ju, the no.5 seed also from Chinese Taipei. In the semi-final, Fan ended the adventure of Korea Republic's Jang Woojin, the no.12 seed (11-5, 11-8, 13-11, 11-8).
For Ma Long, despite having to settle for silver, there was the satisfaction of revenge. Men's World Cup champion in 2012 and 2015, he fought back in epic fashion against Japan's 17-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto, the no.3 seed in their semi-final (11-7, 3-11, 6-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-4). Harimoto had overcome Ma in the same round one year ago.
"Harimoto has made a huge improvement to his game in the last two years. I lost to him last year in the World Cup. Even at 1-3 down I did not give up and my coach kept encouraging me and giving me tips," stated Ma Long.
Silver in Chengdu for Harimoto; in Weihai it was bronze. In the third-place playoff he defeated Jang Woojin (7-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-6, 14-12, 6-11, 11-5).
"In the afternoon I played really well against Ma Long and after losing I was quite disappointed. Winning a medal is still a good achievement. No match was easy here," explained Tomokazu Harimoto.
Jang Woojin excelled by finishing fourth on his Men's World Cup debut. Safely through to the main draw, he beat Japan's Koki Niwa, the no.8 seed, before seeing off fellow Korean, Jeoung Youngsik, the no.9 seed (15-13, 11-9, 2-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-6). Jeoung had knocked out Brazil's Hugo Calderano, the no.4 seed, in the opening round (11-8, 14-16, 11-9, 10-12, 11-2, 11-7).
It was a strong debut Men's World Cup showing also for Slovenia's Darko Jorgic. The no.18 seed pushed Ma Long hard over a six-game opening-round encounter (11-7, 12-14, 11-9, 11-13, 13-11, 11-3). The 22-year-old had ended the hopes of Africa in the group stage by beating the continent's leading light, Nigeria's Quadri Aruna, the no.13 seed (11-4, 8-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-8, 11-4).
Meanwhile from Europe, Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Sweden's Mattias Falck went furthest in Weihai. Ovtcharov, the no.7 seed, was defeated by Ma Long in the quarter-final (11-9, 11-4, 11-7, 7-11, 11-5). In the same round, Falck, the no.6 seed, lost to Harimoto (11-9, 11-8, 11-9, 4-11, 11-9).
As the curtain comes down on a successful Men's World Cup, preparations begin for the Bank of Communications 2020 ITTF Finals, taking place between 19 – 22 November 2020 in Zhengzhou, China. The event will see many of the world's best men's singles and women's singles players battling for honours. It is the third and final event of the #RESTART series, which is delivering the return of international table tennis events after eight months of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.