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Germany closer to superb China

Top seeds and title favourites, China won the Men’s Championship Division at the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Championships in Tokyo on Monday 5th May. At the final hurdle the trio formed by MA Long, ZHANG Jike and XU Xin overcame the German outfit of Timo BOL

Top seeds and title favourites, China won the Men’s Championship Division at the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Championships in Tokyo on Monday 5th May. At the final hurdle the trio formed by MA Long, ZHANG Jike and XU Xin overcame the German outfit of Timo BOLL, Dimitrij OVTCHAROV and Patrick FRANZISKA in what was a repeat of the last three years’ finals.

MA Long beat Timo BOLL (11-6, 11-9, 11-9), Dimitrij OVTCHAROV levelled by overcoming ZHANG Jike (13-11, 11-8, 11-6), before XU Xin restored the lead by accounting for Patrick FRANZISKA (11-5, 11-2, 11-9). The scene was set for MA Long to complete the task; he duly obliged, he beat Dimitrij OVTCHAROV in three straight games (12-10, 11-5, 11-2).

In 2008 in Moscow the verdict went to China by three matches to one; in Dortmund by three matches to nil; in Tokyo. MA Long and ZHANG Jike remained in the Chinese line-up from the outfits that had appeared in the Moscow and Dortmund finals; for German the ever present were Timo BOLL and Dimitrij OVTCHAROV. In Moscow the German Team had been completed by Christian SUSS, in Dortmund it had been Patrick BAUM; as for China, MA Lin had play in Moscow, WANG Hao in Dortmund.

First match into the arena saw MA Long and Timo BOLL enter the fray, it was a repeat of Moscow when they had met in the opening contest; on that occasion Timo BOLL had recovered from a two games to nil deficit to record a five games win and thus gave Germany the early advantage.

In the splendours of the Yoyogi Gymnasium, once again MA Long won the first two games; the second game being clearly seen by both Jörg ROSSKOPF, the Head Coach for Germany and LIU Guoliang, the Head Coach for China, as absolutely crucial.

At 6-7 in arrears, Timo BOLL elected for “Time Out”; at 9-8 ahead MA Long did the same. The game went to MA Long who progressed to secure the third and thus prevented a repeat of the Olimpijsky Sports Complex in 2010.

Next into the arena came ZHANG Jike and Dimitrij OVTCHAROV with the German making a dream start in the first games; he won the first six points in a contest between the players who arguably possess the most effective backhand attacking strokes on planet earth.

ZHANG Jike levelled at 7-all, Jörg ROSSKOPF called “Time Out”; the momentum was with ZHANG Jike, somehow it needed to be arrested. Whether it was a direct effect of the break or not, the game went the way of Dimitrij OVTCHAROV; the advantage with the German, he established a 7-6 lead in the second game. LIU Guoliang called “Time Out”. The break worked but not in favour of China, Dimitrij OVTCHAROV held a two games to nil lead. A ZHANG Jike recovery was anticipated by the 10,000 spectators; it was not to happen; Dimitrij OVTCHAROV was confident,

Dimitrij OVTCHAROV secured the third game. It was parity. It was the first ever loss in a singles match at a World Champions for ZHANG Jike. He won the Men’s Singles title at his first attempt at the GAC Group 2011 World Championships in Moscow, he retained the title in Paris last year; whilst in both Moscow and Dortmund at the World Tean Championships he was unbeaten. In Men’s Singles events, the record reads 14-0; now in Men’s Tem competitions it is 17-1.

Matter s level, XU Xin carried too many guns for Patrick FRANZISKA; the 21 year old German maintained his poise, his demeanour but once XU Xin had overcome any nerves by winning the opening game, the writing was on the wall. XU Xin won in three straight games; the advantage was once again with China.

China ahead but in the Yoyogi Gymnasium there was an air of expectation; back into action came the men in form, MA Long and Dimitrij OVTCHAROV.

Dimitrij OVTCHAROV may have lost earlier in the tournament to Ukraine’s Oleksandr DIDUKH and Japan’s Jun MIZUTANI but in the final, like the true professional, he had resigned the defeats to history. He was in form, relishing the challenge.

However, MA Long was unbeaten and clearly he now had the complete trust of LIU Guoliang; he had been chosen to play in the “quick matches”, the first and third encounters. The first game went to Ma Long after he had saved one game point at 9-10; he then won the second game as the rallies rose the breath-taking heights.

Two games to nil ahead, MA Long was increasingly confident; in the third game seized control from the very start, a straight games win was posted. It was for China the 24th time they had appeared in a World Championships Men’s Team final, it was the 19th time they had won; in fact only twice have they not departed with a medal. On debut in 1953 in Bucarest and almost three decades in later in Chiba in 1991 they finished in seventh place. In Tokyo, led by LIU Guoliang, China not only maintained, they extended the tradition; the trio of MA Long, ZHANG Jike and XU Xin delivered the goods. Once again China held the Swaythling Cup aloft.

Courtesy ITTF

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