Kuwait, Feb 16, 2014: 17-year-old FAN Zhendong (CHN) has created history by winning his third ITTF World Tour title at the GAC Group ITTF World Tour (Super Series) Kuwait Open.
FAN defeated teammate and close friend YAN An 11-7, 11-7, 13-15, 11-3,11-8 to seal an emotional victory in the first ITTF World Tour event of 2014.
The last time the 2012 World Junior Champion FAN played 21-year-old YAN, he lost to the latter at the 2013 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open final. Reflecting on what has changed since that loss, FAN stated: “After my loss to YAN An last year, I am more prepared this year to meet him. I worked on many areas that were lacking last year, such as my service and receive.”
The 17-year-old, who last year was the youngest player to win a Men’s Singles Title at an ITTF event and now has three to his name before his 18th birthday, stated: “I am still a youth player, so I have to take it step-by-step to reach the top. I also lack experience, and there are still many areas that I have to improve on. But that said, if I had to state one current aim, it is to become World Champion.”
Two times World Junior Champion ZHU Yuling (CHN) caused an upset by beating CHEN Meng (CHN) in the women’s singles final 9-11, 11-7, 9-11, 13-11,11-8, 11-4 to clinch her first ever ITTF World Tour title.
Going into the final, CHEN was the hot favourite after blowing world number one and defending champion LIU Shiwen (CHN) off the court 4-0 in the semifinals. However, ZHU held her nerve to secure the gold.
An elated ZHU stated: “This is my third attempt at the Kuwait Open, and both times I lost in the semifinal. Hence, at the semifinal yesterday, I took it as a personal challenge. While today in the finals, I could be unrestrained and go all out.”
“I’ve played on the World Tour for 4 years but I’ve never won before! So this is a very special win for me here in Kuwait.”
The mixed nation pair of Stefan FEGERL (SWE) and LIN Gaoyuan (CHN) secured gold in the Men’s Doubles with a hard fought victory over the in-form doubles pairing of CHIANG Hung-Chieh (TPE) and HUANG Sheng-Sheng (TPE) 5-11,11-4,10-12,11-3,11-7.
The world’s number one singles player LIU Shiwen (CHN) made up for her disappointment in the singles by teaming up with MU Zi (CHN) for the first time to win the Women’s Doubles title. The Chinese pair easily dispensed of the Korean pair JEON Jihee and SEOK Hajung 11-8, 11-9, 11-6 to win their first gold as a pair.
Asuka SAKAI (JPN) became the Men’s Under-21 champion by defeating KIM Donghyun (KOR) 8-11, 13-11, 11-5, 11-8, 10-12, 11-3 in the final.
SAKAI’s more celebrated team mate and Olympic silver medalist, Kasumi ISHIKAWA (JPN) was not so lucky, losing in the Women’s Under-21 Singles final to YANG Haeun (KOR), whose victory was her 8th in the ITTF World Tour Under-21 events.
The world’s best table tennis players now have a short trip to Doha, for the next GAC Group ITTF World Tour Super Series event, the Qatar Open, which starts on Tuesday,18 February 2014.
The GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour consists of 22 events in 22 countries, with the world’s best table tennis players battling out for a record USD2,739,700 of prize money and entry to the World Tour Grand Final later in the year.
The World Tour is separated into three tiers (highest first): Super (6 events), Major (5 events), Challenge (11 events). The higher the series, the more prize money, World ranking points, World Tour ranking points and higher quality of competition on offer. —- Photo by Mohammad Amin Qasim/ITTF