World No.1 MA Long reigns supreme in Doha

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More success for the world number one.

In a rematch of the 2015 World Tour Grand Finals Gold medal match against FAN Zhendong, the world number one repeated his success one year ago to defeat his 19-year-old compatriot once again in dominant fashion.

The 2016 ITTF Male Table Tennis Star proved himself to be in unbeatable form, racing to a quick 3-0 lead in an intense final in front of the local crowd.

After FAN came back strong to win the next two games and saved five match points, MA was not going to let the title slip at the last moment, putting the pressure back on to eventually prevail 4-2 (11-5, 11-4, 11-9, 7-11, 12-14, 11-9).

“I’m very happy to win my fifth World Tour Grand Finals Singles title. I think I’m in quite a good form during this tournament, especially in the final, I made it through the challenge of FAN Zhendong,” stated the 28-year-old. “I played well at the start but I did not deal with crucial points well enough when I was leading at the middle of the match. But I think it’s good enough to be able to win the match.”

After defending Champion DING Ning withdrew from the tournament due to high fever, world number four Zhu Yuling was China’s only hope for her country to retain the Women’s Singles trophy.

Facing Rio 2016 Olympic Team silver medalist Han Ying (GER), the world team champion was in top shape, giving the German defender no chance to take control over from her in the final fight for gold, winning 4-0 (11-9, 12-10, 12-10, 11-3) to become the World Tour Grand Final Women’s Singles Champion for the first time.

“I was more or less anxious because this is the first time for me to play in the finals at the Grand Finals. I am eager to win. Luckily, I can still calm down at the crucial point. For me, this match is the accumulation of experience,” shared ZHU after claiming the title.

“I have gained a lot in 2016. Winning this tournament at the end of this year is a small step for me. I hope I can play well in the next year. In the new circle of Olympics, I think, no matter what problem I will meet, I will spare no effort to prepare for Tokyo Olympics.”

Japan’s Hina Hayata who was recently crowned World Junior Team Champion in Cape Town just one week ago, added the Women’s Doubles title & the under-21 Women’s Singles Champion title to her name from the World Tour Grand Finals.

Pairing with Yui Hamamoto, Hayata overcame Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem and Lee Ho Ching in six games (11-8, 15-17, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8, 12-10) to take home the Women’s Doubles title.

In the men’s doubles event, Japan’s top seeded pair Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima were unable to repeat the feat by their female counterparts. Despite dominating the match at the start to take the first 2 games, Korean duo Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu recovered quickly to win the next four games to seal the final victory 4-2(5-11, 2-11, 12-10. 11-9, 11-7, 11-4).

In the under-21 events, Hayata secured her title with a 4-1 (11-8, 7-11, 11-8, 13-11, 11-7) victory to upset DOO.

While Chinese Taipei’s Liao Cheng-Ting who shocked top seeded Ho Kwan Kit (HKG) out of the contest for gold earlier in the tournament, had the match of his career, defeating seconded seeded Yuto Muramatsu 4-0 (11-6, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8) to claim his first World Tour Grand Finals title.

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ITTF World Tour stars set for Doha finale

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The world’s best players battled through 20 World Tour events across the globe to gather enough points to qualify for the $500,000 season-ending event.

As always, all eyes will be on World & Olympic champion MA Long of China who will be the red-hot favorite to defend the title he won last year in Lisbon.

The odds for the 28-year-old were slashed even more as he was drawn in the other half of his two other teammates, world number two FAN Zhendong and number three XU Xin. This means MA will not have to face his Chinese teammates until the final.

“I am very happy to avoid my friend XU Xin in the draw. This is my last tournament of the year, so I want to finish the year of my dreams off in style, by winning the World Tour Grand Finals for the fourth time.”

Number two seed, 19-year-old FAN Zhendong, the man that MA Long beat in last year’s World Tour Grand Final, will be out for revenge for his 2015 defeat, and will want to keep up his momentum from winning the Men’s World Cup earlier in the year.

Double World Tour Grand Final champion Jun Mizutani (JPN) is making his first international appearance since winning bronze at Rio 2016, so confidence will be high for the Japanese superstar. Europe’s hopes rest with Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) and Vladimir Samsonov (BLR), who will be bidding for their first World Tour Grand Finals crown.

Like fellow Olympic champion MA Long, Ding Ning (CHN), is out to defend her World Tour Grand Finals title here in Doha. The 27-year-old stated after seeing her draw: “All the 16 players are qualified through many tough tournaments in 2016, so everyone here will be strong. I will prepare my best for every match, as each match will be difficult. I am here to win, and want desperately to defend my title.”

The Japanese trio of Miu Hirano, Mima ITO and Hina Hayata, fresh from their historic feat of becoming the Women’s Junior World Team Champions earlier in the week are ready to enter back into the senior stage, after all qualifying for the event here in Doha. Time will tell if they can transfer their junior form to senior success in Doha.

The Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals is the most lucrative table tennis event on the globe, with only the top 16 men and women players from the 20 2016 ITTF World Tour events securing their place in Doha. In addition to the singles competition, eight men’s and women’s doubles pairs and 8 men’s and women’s under 21 players have also be making their way to Doha to compete in the event.

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Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast

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In the latest episode of ITTF Monthly Pongcast, the team delve into

– Final candidates for Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals and for the 2016 ITTF World Junior Circuit Finals

– Yuya Oshima win in the Swedish Open

– Kenta Matsudaira memorable victory at the Austrian Open

– The Hungarian Junior and Cadet Open

All this and much more in November’s Pongcast.

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