China’s Ma Long moved a step closer to achieving a Grand Slam of major titles after cruising to victory at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Liebherr World Cup in Swedish city Halmstad.
Having won his first men’s singles crown at the ITTF World Championships in May in Suzhou, Ma comfortably overcame 18-year-old compatriot Fan Zhendong 11-7, 11-6, 11-8, 11-8 in the final and will now have the opportunity to complete the three-pronged Grand Slam at next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Success saw him claim the World Cup title for a second time following his triumph in Liverpool, England, three years ago, and also go one better than last year when he finished runner-up to fellow countryman Zhang Jike in Düsseldorf, Germany.
“Twenty fifteen has been a fruitful year for me,” said Ma, who celebrates his 27th birthday on Tuesday (October 20).
“The World Championships victory earlier this year definitely made me stronger mentally and skills-wise, giving me more confidence to win this event.
“I played really well today.
“Sweden has been a lucky place for me.
“I won the World Tour Swedish Open in 2011, and the men’s World Cup today.
“It feels great here.”
Ma earlier registered an emphatic 11-4, 11-2, 11-7, 11-4 win in his semi-final encounter with Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who went on to beat the other losing semi-finalist, Jun Mizutani of Japan, in the bronze medal match.
The third-place playoff resumed a long-running battle dating back to 2005, with Ovtcharov powering his way to a 11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9, 11-9 victory and claiming his second World Cup bronze medal.
“It was a great match against Jun, really difficult, long rallies,” said Ovtcharov.
The German has faced a gruelling schedule since the beginning of the recent ITTF European Championships in the Russian city of Ekaterinburg, where he beat Portugal’s Marcos Freitas in the final to retain his crown.
“I’m really tired,” he added.
“I’ve played 18 matches since the start of the European Championships.
“I now need two days to recuperate before I play in the Polish Open in Warsaw that will start on October 21.”
Attention now turns to the women’s ITTF World Cup, due to begin in Sendai, Japan, on October 30.
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, www.insidethegames.biz