China extended their record winning streaks in ITTF Team World Cup history by claiming their 10th men’s and 11th women’s team titles on Sunday in Tokyo, Japan.
China’s men claimed the nation’s first trophy of the day by defeating Korea Republic 3-1 in a fiercely contested final, in which they were forced to fight from 0-1 down after losing the men’s doubles match before winning their three singles contests.
Jeoung Youngsik-Lee Sangsu struck first blood when they came back from two sets down to beat Xu Xin-Liang Jingkun 8-11, 4-11, 12-10, 11-7, 12-10 in the doubles.
With China relying on Fan Zhendong to get them out of
trouble, the world’s top ranked player did not let them down when he defeated Jang
Woojin in straight games 11-8, 11-8, 11-9.
Then for the standout battle of the match and arguably the entire event: the Youngsik had a whole nation dreaming when he came from 0-1 down against Jingkun to lead 2-1 with a match point to hand. But the Chinese world number seven dug deep to rescue the situation and put China back in control of the tie after sealing a nail-biting 11-9, 8-11, 10-12, 15-13, 11-8 victory.
Fan Zhendong duly finished the job with a straight-game 11-8, 11-4, 11-8 win over Lee Sangsu to bring the curtain down on a truly inspirational battle.
“This was a very tough match indeed. They made it a huge challenge for us, both for me and the rest of my team, but luckily we made it in the end. For sure, I am really looking forward to coming back here next year. I learnt and analysed lots of things from this whole tournament.” – Fan Zhendong
The women’s team final saw two highest ranked teams – China and Japan – going head on for the title.
Yet again, China had the measure of their opponents,
inflicting a ruthless 3-0 victory over their biggest rivals and hosts.
Chen Meng-Liu Shiwen ensured that they, unlike their male colleagues before them, started on the right note, defeating Kasumi Ishikawa-Miu Hirano 11-7, 11-9, 12-10.
The highlight of the tie was the contest between the Japanese youngster Mima Ito and Sun Yingsha, two of the sport’s most talented teenagers.
With the backing of the home supporters, Ito looked set to hand Japan a lifeline in the match when she led 2-0, but Yingsha fought back aggressively to take the match to a fifth, In the deciding game she showed nerves of steel to save three match points and see out an incredible comeback victory and crushing blow to Ito and Japan winning 8-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7, 12-10.
“I am still playing back the memory of the match
in my head having led 2-0 and I cannot really explain what happened as I am
still in the dark of what went wrong. With the scores at 2-2, I realised that
my opponent was playing her own style because initially she had problems
playing her game. However, when she got back to her style, she started gaining
the edge over me,” said Ito after the match.
In the next singles, Liu Shiwen rarely put a foot wrong as she beat Miu Hirano 11-3, 11-8, 11-5.
For Japan, the tournament gave them a taste of what could follow when they stage the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in eight months’ time at the very same venue, the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
Evidence suggests that they will continue to challenge for medals next year on home soil, but bridging the gap with China will remain an extremely stern test.