Doha – Qatar, Feb 23, 2014: Both Chinese finalists XU Xin and HU Limei claimed gold against their foreign opponents on the final day of the GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour (Super Series) Qatar in Doha, Qatar, at the Women’s Sports Committee Hall situated within Aspire Zone. This $500,000 Qatar Open also has the highest prize money in the history of the ITTF World Tour.
World Number 2 and 2013 World Tour Grand Finals winner XU Xin (CHN) defeated CHUANG Chih-Yuan (TPE) 13-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-6, 11-5 in a thrilling Men’s Singles Final, making it his third Qatar Open victory, levelling WANG Liqin (CHN) and Zoran PRIMORAC (CRO)’s record, and his ninth World Tour victory.
In addition, XU was the only Chinese man to make it into the Quarterfinal. Men’s World Number 5 and 6 from China, FAN Zhendong and YAN An, the respective winner and runner-up at the Kuwait Open last week, were also unable to advance to the quarterfinals as they were knocked out spectacularly by CHO Eonrae (KOR) and GAO Ning (SIN) respectively, leaving XU Xin alone to carry the hopes of a Chinese Men’s Singles gold medal.
“Before this week, we had a lot of activities and hence I was not able to train as much. Hence I didn’t play as well as I hoped. But entering the finals and winning, I feel very happy!” exclaimed XU. “There was of course some pressure on me, as I was the only Chinese remaining in the Quarterfinals. Coach Liu also sent me a text message, commenting that this is a test for me, to handle the situation and to win the Men’s Singles Title.”
For the Women’s Singles, 19-year-old HU Limei (CHN) came back from 1-2 behind to defeat the in-form LIU Jia of Austria, who had won the 2014 Hungarian Open and 2014 Europe Cup back to back in the beginning of the year, 11-9, 9-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 14-12.
After the match, Hu commented: “Not only is this the first time I’ve won a World Tour event, but it is in fact the first time I’ve made it into the Semi Final & Final. I feel very happy and excited now! Liu Jia is a very experienced player, so before the match I told myself that I just needed to try my best.”
“When I was falling behind, I made some adjustments to my play, and also tried to calm down”, added HU. “During the time-out in the 5th game when I was 5-6 down (and eventually winning 11-6), my coach gave me a lot of encouragement and affirmation, and advised me to make some variations with my service.”
It was a week of surprises as both the Men’s and Women’s Singles top seeds bowled out in the early rounds of the tournament. Men’s Singles defending champion MA Long (CHN) withdrew due to injury in the Round-of-16, while Women’s Singles top seed FENG Tianwei (SIN) made a dramatic exit after losing 3-4 to 21-year-old World Number 54 NG Wing Nam (HKG).
In the Women’s Doubles, LEE Ho Ching and NG Wing Nam (HKG) played some inspired table tennis to defeat favourites LIU Gaoyang and LIU Xi (CHN) 11-8, 16-14, 11-6 in the final to win the title in the 20th anniversary of the Qatar Open.
In the Men’s Doubles final, CHO Eonrae and SEO Hyundeok (KOR) blew away the French pairing of Tristan FLORE and Emmanuel LEBESSON 11-9, 11-7, 12-10.
This comes a day after Tristan FLORE secured the Men’s Singles Under-21 title by defeating Indian Harmeet DESAI 11-9, 11-5, 11-8, 11-4. The 18-year-old was in sublime form in Qatar, not losing a game on his march to the title.
Petrissa SOLJA (GER) made it a clean sweep for Europe in the Under-21 events, by beating LIN Ye (SIN) 9-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-8, 11-5 in the Women’s Singles Under-21 final.
Next up on the ITTF calendar is the draw for the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships on 15 March 2014 in Tokyo, Japan. —- Photo by Fadi Al-Assaad/ITTF via Action Images