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December 3, 2020

Chen Meng eyes history, Zhendong-Ma Long clash again

5 min read

Ma Long and Xu Xin take to the table in Zhengzhou (Photo: Rémy Gros)

The Chinese duo Chen Meng and of Fan Zhendong are on the verge of back-to-back major titles, storming into the women’s and men’s singles final respectively at the Zhengzhou Olympic Sports Center.

Chen Meng outplayed teammate Sun Yingsha 11-9, 11-8, 11-8, 12-10 to book her place in the women’s final and a step closer to a historic fourth ITTF Finals crown. No player has ever won the ITTF Finals for four consecutive years in either the women’s singles or men’s singles competition.

It was heartbreak for YIngsha, who was also beaten by Chen Meng for the Women’s World Cup title last weekend.

After losing traction in the first three games, Yingsha played out of her skin in the first half of game four. She looked well on her way to pulling the deficit back slightly with a seemingly unassailable 3-8 lead. But, Chen Meng was hardly under pressure as, proving that no lead was unassailable for her. She proved it by fighting back to steal the game and bring the tie to a quick halt.

Chen Meng secures spot in yet another women’s singles final (Photo: Rémy Gros)

“The (4-0) result was unexpected. This is the third time we have played in a very short time span. Even though it looked one sided, every game had it’s crucial moments when things were tight and I feel lucky to win the match. Every match with her is exciting! There isn’t too much of a difference in our ability and our playing style is quite similar,” said Chen Meng.

She will be up against another Chinese Wang Manyu in the final. It will be a repeat of last year’s women’s singles final which Chen Meng dominated.

Manyu derailed the hopes of Japanese Mima Ito with a comprehensive 11-3, 11-4, 11-9, 11-6 victory in her semi-final tie.

The two have now met 11 times so far with Manyu holding a significant head-to-head advantage with nine wins.

Although Ito defeated Manyu in their last encounter, truth be told she never really found a way to match her opponent in the semi-finals. Ito did have her moments, coming particularly close in game three but it was clear from the early stages that there was only ever going to be one winner with Manyu proving the dominant force.

“When facing this kind of pressure before the match, I try to bring that pressure into the match. The way I see it, with this pressure, my coach’s words and the trust in myself, I strive to push my opponent and do my best. I will try to take away as much as I can from tomorrow’s match. On current form and ability, Chen Meng is on another level and has had her own breakthrough, winning big titles,” said Manyu.

Dominant performance sees Wang Manyu sail through (Photo: Rémy Gros)

The men’s singles final will see newly crowned World Cup champion Fan Zhendong taking on his illustrious teammate Ma Long. Zhendong and the Dragon met at the finals of the recent World Cup, with Zhendong taking the coveted title.

Zhendong is looking to defend his men’s singles crown at the ITTF Finals, having triumphed last year in Zhengzhou. That was his second success at the event after winning in 2017 in Astana. Meanwhile, Ma Long will be setting his sights on a historic sixth men’s singles title.

Both men were equally impressive in their semi-finals wins.

For the second time in as many tournaments, world number one Zhendong turned out to be the stumbling block for Korean Jang Woojin. Zhendong, who had defeated Woojin at the same stage at the Men’s World Cup in Weihai, repeated the feat with a 11-8, 11-4, 13-15, 11-8, 11-5 win in Zhengzhou.

The momentum shifted to Woojin’s corner after a tense third game, but Zhendong did not let it faze him at all, responding with back-to-back game wins to move into the final.

Woojin has been a revelation in recent weeks, including in his first round stunner against Japanese prodigy Tomokazu Harimoto two days ago.

Fan Zhendong claims another victory over Jang Woojin (Photo: Rémy Gros)

“I prepared for this match but still found that it was a really tight game. Even though I won, I didn’t think I performed to my best. When I was leading 9-4 in the first game, I was a little too cautious and was lucky to have won game one. Games two and three were actually better. Even though I lost the third game, I thought he had reached his maximum because he felt that he needed to win it,” said Zhendong.

Ma Long defeated second seeded Xu Xin in the men’s singles semi-finals for the second year running. This time he came from a game down to upstage his younger opponent 11-13, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8, 11-7.

There was very little between the two elite names from China but Ma Long never looked back after dropping that first game, dictating the pace and power of the rallies from that point on.

SEMI-FINAL RESULTS

MEN:  Fan Zhendong (Chn) bt Jang Woojin (Kor) 11-8, 11-4, 13-15, 11-8, 11-5; Ma Long (Chn)  bt Xu Xin (Chn) 11-13, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8, 11-7

WOMEN: Cheng Meng (Chn) bt Sun Yingsha (Chn) 11-9, 11-8, 11-8, 12-10; Wang Manyu (Chn) bt Mima Ito (Jpn) 11-3, 11-4, 11-9, 11-6

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