ITTF News, Nov 27, 2011: The winner on both occasions that the ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals were staged in Macao; 23 year old Ma Long repeated the success in the ExCel Arena on Sunday 27th November 2011 He beat Zhang Jike in the London final in five games (11-5, 9-11, 11-3, 11-4, 14-12) to secure the title for the third time in his career. The win now means that Ma Long has equalled the record of his compatriot Wang Liqin; who won in 1998 in Paris, in 2000 in Kobe and in 2004 in Beijing.
Unbeaten for Over 40 Matches
It was a stunning performance and it extended Ma Long’s amazing run of success. Any record of a Ma Long defeat is ancient history! The last time Ma Long lost a singles match was in the Men’s Singles final at the Volkswagen China Open in Shenzhen in early June when beaten by Ma Lin. He has gone some 40 singles matches without losing!
In a period of five months he has won the Men’s Singles titles on the ITTF Pro Tour at the Harmony China Open, the Austrian Open and the Swedish Open; in addition he won the GAC Motors Asian Cup and the Chinese National Championships!
Will he be back in London in 2012 for the OIympic Games to line up alongside Wang Hao and Zhang Jike? Surely that question was answered in the ExCel Arena on the concluding Sunday in November.
Decide the Favourite
Who was the favourite before the contest started?
Was it the World champion or the young man who occupies the no.1 position on the Men’s World Rankings? Did logic suggest the former or did logic favour the latter; the history books certainly pointed to the latter.
Incredibly of the seven previous meetings between Ma Long and Zhang Jike in world ranking events, Ma Long had won six of the encounters. Zhang Jike had just one win to his name; he beat Ma Long in six games in March 2008, when the pair met at the quarter-final stage of the Men’s Singles event at the Qatar Open in Doha.
The meeting in Doha was the fourth of their careers but when they met again more recently; always Ma Long prevailed. He won in January 2010 at the semi-final stage of the Men’s Singles event at the ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals in Macau and earlier this year he overcame Zhang Jike in the Men’s Singles final at both the Harmony China Open in Suzhou in August and at the Austrian Open one month later in Vienna. The wins in Suzhou and Vienna were massive confidence boosters for Ma Long.
In the ExCel Arena the early advantage went to Ma Long, he secured the first game. He was the quicker to attack, the faster to seize the initiative. However, Zhang Jike, clever at creating angles from the backhand secured the second game
Anticipation and Speed
Incredible reactions and anticipation with the points played a break neck speed saw Ma Long secure the third game. It was the sheer speed of the play that caught the eye; Ma Long and Zhang Jike represent the new generation. They are faster with their footwork than those who went before. Certainly players like Ma Lin, Wang Liqin and company were fleet of foot but Ma Long and Zhang Jike have taken the speed needed for high quality table tennis to a new level.
In the third and fourth games Ma Long was in full flow, his attacking play awesome; he overpowered the stylish Zhang Jike. Time and again Ma Long seized the opportunity to attack with his dynamite driven forehand early in the rally; Zhang Jike was forced into the passive role.