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MA Long won his first World Cup title

Chinese superstar MA Long won his maiden LIEBHERR Men’s World Cup title at the Echo Arena with a fantastic performance against German number 1 Timo BOLL. MA Long came into the match in imperious form from his double 4:0 quarter and semi-final wins over Mi

Chinese superstar MA Long won his maiden LIEBHERR Men’s World Cup title at the Echo Arena with a fantastic performance against German number 1 Timo BOLL. MA Long came into the match in imperious form from his double 4:0 quarter and semi-final wins over Michael MAZE (DEN) and teammate XU Xin (CHN) respectively.

In fact, after his shock 4:0 defeat to CHUANG Chih-Yuan (TPE) in the group stages, the aggressive Chinese player had been unstoppable as he showed the form that took him to the ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals title last year in London. BOLL meanwhile was unbeaten in the tournament. After wins over JIANG Tianyi (HKG) and Adrien MATTENET (FRA) in the group stages, he waltzed past expert defender JOO Se Hyuk (KOR) 4:0 before defeating three-time World Cup Champion Vladimir SAMSONOV (BLR) 4:2.

The match itself was full of quality from the outset with first BOLL, then MA Long, striking perfectly executed forehand winners across the table to secure early points in the first game.

When MA Long blitzed a scorching forehand behind BOLL’S back it opened up a 7:4 lead that he would build upon faultlessly until the end of an 11:4 first game that left Boll wondering how he could pass the world no. 2.

A pumped-up MA Long extended an early lead in the second game to 5:1. With the Chinese star ever more vociferous and the German forced ever quieter, the pattern of the play seemed ominous for the five-times European Champion.
With coach Jorg ROSSKOPF watching on from the sidelines in pained expression, BOLL was left to pick up the pieces on the court as an on-fire MA Long showed no remorse in claiming the second game 11:3. Whatever the German’s spoke about in the break it worked as a forceful BOLL battled his way into a 6:3 lead in the third game. He maintained his lead for the majority of the game until Ma Long levelled at 8:8. Asserting his authority once more, the 23-year-old won five successive points from 6:8 down to 11:8 to create a 3:0 lead and he could start to feel the trophy in his hands.

The 31-year-old European wasn’t about to let him win easily though and a magnificent point for 4:4 drew the two-time former Champion level after he executed a magnificent backhand down the line past Ma Long. However, a dominant Ma Long secured his deserved title with more excellent footwork and attacking play as he swept aside his illustrious opponent with one final powerful swipe of his blade to BOLL’S body.Just like in London in 2011, Ma Long is Champion again in England – soon becoming his new favourite country as he takes ZHANG Jike’s crown and closes in on becoming the world number 1 once more.

SAMSONOV beat XU Xin in an excellent exhibition of table tennis at the Echo Arena to secure third place after a six game rollercoaster.

In semi final Timo BOLL beat fellow European opponent Vladimir SAMSONOV. BOLL, began nervously, touching the ball long on a couple of occasions early on as he conceded the first four points to SAMSONOV. It was a very tentative start from both players who, despite their experience, clearly felt the nerves on the big stage as they realised their opportunity of a final place without having to beat one of the Chinese players.

BOLL’S poor early start cost him in the first game as SAMSONOV was allowed to win the opener 11:7 without having to extend himself in any big rallies.

In the second game BOLL finally broke the shackles at 8-5 to push SAMSONOV back and use his forehand power for the first time, but it did not matter as the 36-year-old secured a second game 11:8 and an important 2:0 lead.

BOLL finally clicked in the third game and rushed into an early lead, which he carried on throughout to dominate a one-sided game 11:2 and get himself back into the match. The fourth game was a tight event. BOLL lead in the fifth game was converted into an 11:7 game and a 3:2 lead as he quietly moved himself into pole position for the final place.
BOLL created two match points at 10:8, which the Belarussian brilliantly saved, but he couldn’t save a third as the German number 1 secured the game 12-10 and a place in the final to boot.

In the quarterfinal there were few problems for Timo BOLL, in a contest that was a reversal of one year earlier. At the LIEBHERR Men’s World Cup in Paris in November 2011, Korea’s JOO Saehyuk had beaten Timo BOLL in a dramatic seven games quarter-final duel; in Liverpool, Timo BOLL seized control from the very start to book a straight games win.
Conversely, Vladimir SAMSONOV needed the full seven games to beat Chinese Taipei’s CHUANG Chih-Yuan, who saved three match points in the sixth game and two match points in the deciding seventh game before eventually succumbing.

Meanwhile, in the lower half of the draw it was back to normal service; having been beaten by CHUANG Chih-Yuan in the first phase of proceedings one day earlier and finished in second place in the group, MA Long was back to form in the quarter-finals. He beat Denmark’s Michael MAZE in four straight games.

(Courtesy of ETTA)

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Photo: MA Long (courtesy ITTF)


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