Ding Ning clean bold, Liu Shiwen Retains Title

By Abdul Rahim from Dubai, Jan 11, 2014: The defending champion, China’s Liu Shiwen wrote her name in the history books of sport on the early evening of Saturday 11th January 2014 by becoming the first player to win the Women’s Singles title at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals on three consecutive occasions. At the GAC Group 2013 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, she beat compatriot Ding Ning to once again arrest the top prize.

Liu Shiwen won in six games (11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 11-4, 4-11, 11-7).

Furthermore, not only had Liu Shiwen won on three occasions, on each occasion, she had beaten Ding Ning in the Final.

Fast and Furious

Proceedings started in a fast and furious manner; neither player was able to establish a telling lead. Consistently Liu Shiwen directed her attacking strokes with pin point accuracy towards to so-called indecision point, the area where the player has to decide whether to play backhand or forehand.

Ding Ning made every effort to execute a forehand top spin stroke when the ball came in that direction; often off balance. The model of consistency, Liu Shiwen secured the first game.


Win a close game and confidence blossoms; Liu Shiwen made a lightning start in the second game winning the first four points.

However, Ding Ning recovered to level at 7-all before four of the next six points to secure the game.

Again in the third game, it was Liu Shiwen who made the better start. She went ahead 7-4 but just as in the previous game Ding Ning recovered; she levelled at 8-all before moving ahead 9-8, only this time she could not repeat the fight back. Liu Shiwen won the next three points, the advantage was regained.

Counter Attacking

A two games to one advantage, the counter attacking skills of Liu Shiwen were prominent in the fourth; Ding Ning attacked relentlessly, Liu Shiwen responded to secure the game and thus established a three-one lead.

Established Lead

Facing the precipice, Ding Ning forced errors from Liu Shiwen in the fifth game; seeking to execute forehand top spins at the earliest opportunity, she established an early lead and never relinquished that lead.

The fast counter attacking exchanges continued at break neck speed; the speed of the exchanges remarkable with Liu Shiwen establishing three games points at 10-7; only one was needed.

Same Level

“I’m very pleased and honoured now to have won the event three times”, said Liu Shiwen. “Ding Ning and myself are of a similar level; it was a really tough match.”

A tough final and against Viktoria Pavlovich of Belarus it had been a tough semi-final; a fact Liu Shiwen acknowledged.

“It was a really tough semi-final, she is a very good defender, very good indeed”, explained Liu Shiwen. “Usually, I am fine against defensive players but she was very difficult to play against.”

The Prized

Nevertheless, Liu Shiwen found the answers, once again her name appeared on the winner’s cheque; an amount that read US$ 104,000.

Ma Long Beats Zhang Jike in Quarter final.

Olympic and World champion but never the Men’s Singles winner at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals; that honour still eludes China’s Zhang Jike.

He was beaten in the quarter-finals at the GAC Group 2013 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals on the afternoon of Saturday 11th January 2014 by compatriot Ma Long in a contest that brought gasps of admiration and wonder from the enthusiastic crowd in the Al-Nasr Sports Centre.

Ma Long won in seven games (8-11, 3-11, 12-10, 11-8,11-6, 9-11, 11-5).

Touch of Nerves

Victory for Ma Long but he lost the first two games before winning three in a row.

“It’s been a little time since I have played in an international match, so at the start I was a little nervous”, said Ma Long. “In the third game, 9-8 was a crucial stage of the match, if I lost that game I would have been three-nil down, so I took the “Time Out” so I could just calm myself and gather my thoughts.”

Role Reversal

The thoughts were gathered. Ma Long won the game and the next two to move three-two ahead; the stage at which it was role reversal.

In the sixth game Zhang Jike led 8-7 and decided to take the “Time Out”, it was exactly the same situation that Ma Long had faced in the third game; he needed a moment to rethink. The break had worked for Ma Long, it worked for Zhang Jike, a deciding seventh game beckoned.

Better Start in Decider

Ma Long made the better start, at the change of ends he led 5-2, he never released the stranglehold. At 10-4 he held six match points, the first was saved, not the second.

“It’s difficult to tell, we know each other so well”, concluded Ma Long. “I think I just played slightly better in the seventh game.”

Enticing Contest

Success for Ma Long in an enthralling and enticing seven games duel was followed by a contest of similar magnanimous proportions.

In the opening round, Japan’s mercurial Masato Shiono had recovered from a three games to nil deficit to beat Singapore’s Gao Ning; in his quarter-final duel against the multi-talented Korean, Kim Minseok, he recovered from a three games to nil deficit to force a deciding seventh game.

No Houdini Like Escape

The backspin return from the nether regions of the court, combined with electric forehand top spins unsettled the rhythm of the 21 year old Korea; however, Masato the magician was not able to complete a Harry Houdini great escape.

In the decisive seventh game, Kim Minseok led 5-4 when the players changed ends. Maintaining his focus and most importantly being patient. He extended the advantage to 6-4 and at 10-5 he held five match points; Masato Shiono saved the first but like Zhang Jike one match earlier he could not save the second.

Kim Minseok who in Hangzhou in December 2012 had departed at the quarter-final stage, beaten by China’s Xu Xin, had moved one step higher in Dubai. He had succeeded in a dynamic seven games duel (11-6, 11-5, 11-8, 3-11, 4-11, 7-11, 11-6).

Different Pen-Hold Experience

Success for Xu Xin in Hangzhou at the quarter-final stage of the Men’s Singles event and it was the same in Dubai; he ended the spirited run of Frenchman Abdel-Kader Salifou.

One round earlier Abdel-Kader Salifou had beaten the Brazilian pen-hold grip player, Cazuo Matsumoto, in four straight games; he found the only other pen-hold grip player in the event a totally different proposition.

Xu Xin beat Abdel-Kader Salifou by a similar margin by which the latter had ended French hopes (11-8, 11-6, 11-8, 12-10).

Never Found Form of Old

Success for Xu Xin and that was followed with success for Fan Zhendong as youth prevailed; he beat Chinese National Team colleague, Wang Hao in five games; Wang Hao never able to find the form that had seen him secure the title in both 2003 and 2006.

Semi-Finals: At the semi-final stage, Ma Long meets Kim Minseok, Xu Xin confronts Fan Zhendong. —- Photo By: Jacques Martinos

TODAY’s Fixtures



Women’s Doubles-Semi Final



PARK Youngsook KOR

LI Xiaoxia CHN




Men’s Singles-Semi Final



KIM Minseok KOR



Women’s Doubles-Semi Final




SHAN Xiaona ^ GER




Men’s Singles-Semi Final



FAN Zhendong CHN



Women’s Doubles-Final

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Men’s Singles-Final

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