Olympic Games

OVTCHAROV lost his seven games thriller against MA Long

Photo: Rémy Gros ITTF

Germany's Dimitrij OVTCHAROV was closer than ever to win his 19th match against MA Long, but it wasn't meant to be. In the semi final of the Men's Singles Event at the 20202 Tokyo Olympics Dimitrij OVTCHAROV lost the seven-games battle against MA. In seven games, the Olympic and World champion from China only made one point more than 2017 World Cup winner and World number one in 2018. Points scored: OVTCHAROV 68: MA Long 69.

After a 81 minutes of the duel between two uncompromising attackers - MA Long had the better end 13:11, 11: 8, 9:11, 9:11, 11: 7, 5:11, 11:9.

Similarly to the match against Hugo CALDERANO in the quarter-finals the day before, Dimitrij OVTCHAROV was 2-0 in reverse at the beginning. He could have won the first game after a strong start and 8:4 advantage and set ball at 10:9. As against CALDERANO, OVTCHAROV fought his way back - which not many succeed against the Chinese players.

“It was a shame that I didn't take the first game. I only thought from point to point, not about winning and not about losing. My match plan went well, I had the best player in the world on the verge of defeat. "

The ten-times European champion won games no. three and four, but the 32-year-old three-times World champion was unimpressed. The showdown came in the seventh game. Previously, in the backhand duels, when it came to that, OVTCHAROV had an advantage due to his toughness and the clever change of pace and placement. MA Long dominated the forehand and it was precisely this, his greatest weapon next to his serves, that he suddenly used more often in the seventh game and managed to run around the backhand several times.

“It was an amazing game from Dima right from the start. Extremely exciting and high-quality until the end, which is seldom seen. He was well prepared, you could see that. And he played all of his tactical opportunities, "said national coach Jörg ROSSKOPF.

It was great match by all means.

"That was certainly one of my best games, but after the match point it was more or less just emptiness and deep pain. I couldn't believe the game was over. I have my wife and called my father right after the game. Without my family I wouldn't be able to do this and I wanted to hear her voice. The words were good for me. "

The only previous meeting when MA Long had been extended the full distance by Dimitrij OVTCHAROV was their very first. In the men’s singles final at the 2009 ITTF World Tour Danish Open in Frederikshavn when a 20 year old Ma Long had secured a hard earned win (13-15, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7, 11-8, 10-12, 11-5).

In Tokyo, MA Long now faces colleague, FAN Zhendong; in an equally absorbing contest, the top seed, he beat LIN Yun-Ju, the no.5 seed (6-11, 11-9, 14-12, 13-15, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8)

It is the first time when both men’s singles semi-finals at an Olympic Games have been decided in full distance matches.

In fact, there has only ever been one previous men’s singles Olympic Games semi-final which gone the full distance; that was in 1992 in Barcelona when Jean-Philippe GATIEN beat China’s MA Wenge, in those days best of five games, each games to 21 points (20–22, 22–20, 21–16, 12–21, 21–13).

Once again Dimitrij Ovtcharov faces an opponent from Chinese Taipei in the bronze medal match; in London (2012), he beat CHUANG Chih-Yuan to secure the third step of the podium. 

However, prior to London 2012 he had never lost to CHUANG Chih-Yuan in a world ranking event. He had prevailed at the 2005 Volkswagen Open China and at the Liebherr 2009 Men’s World Cup in Moscow.

In Tokyo, it is different, he has lost four of their most recent five matches against Lin Yun-Ju; the one win is the most recent, earlier this year in March at the WTT Middle East Hub Contender tournament in Doha. Dimitrij Ovtcharov prevailed in the final.

Meanwhile, later in the day, CHEN Meng won the women’s singles gold.

After recording a semi-final win against Singapore’s YU Mengyu, the no.26 seed, (11-6, 11-8, 11-7, 11-6), CHEN Meng, justified her top seeds position; she accounted for colleague SUN Yingsha, the no.2 seed (9-11, 11-6, 11-6, 5-11, 11-4, 11-9) to secure the title.

Success for CHEN Meng, followed success for Japan’s Mima Ito; beaten by SUN Yingsha in the penultimate round (11-3, 11-9, 11-6, 11-4), she accounted for YU Mengyu (6-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-7, 11-6) to reserve the third step of the podium.

Bronze for Mima ITO but more significantly, a first ever Olympic Games women’s singles medal for Japan in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games.

The men’s singles bronze medal match is scheduled for 8.00 pm (local time) on Friday 30th July, the gold medal contest one hour later.