Table tennis caught the attention of the wider world in Brazil, once again placing itself as a seminal part of the Games.
What did you make of the Olympic tournament and which countries caught your eye on the table?
The all-Chinese match-up featured the top two seeds, but it was world No1 Liu Shiwen who got the best of her Olympic champion opponent 4-1 (11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 14-12, 11-3) Saturday at Dubai World Trade Centre.
Liu Shiwen won the first two games before Li Xiaoxia fought back by taking game three and then got within a point of tying the match at two-all in the fourth game. Li Xiaoxia couldn’t capitalise though and after Liu Shiwen earned the tiebreaker, the fifth game was more of a formality.
As well as qualifying for her fifth World Cup, in which she’ll defend her title, Liu Shiwen also edges closer to a spot in the Olympics.
“Until the final day the (Olympics) list is finalised, I’ll just focus on myself, prepare and give the best for the coming matches, including open tournaments in the next three months,” she said.
“Hopefully, it will earn me the chance to go to the Olympics.”
The Asian Cup remains one of the only major titles Li Xiaoxia has yet to claim during her sparkling career, which has featured a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics. Saturday’s loss, she felt, was the outcome of one player just outperforming another.
She said: “Liu Shiwen performed very well. For me, I performed normal, but it’s not a surprising result.”
Earlier, reigning Asian Cup champion Feng Tianwei of Singapore settled for bronze by convincingly beating Hong Kong’s Tie Yana 4-0 (11-7, 11-3, 11-4, 11-6).
The top-seeded Chinese player and world No3 took down his compatriot and reigning Olympic champion 4-2 (4-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-8, 6-11, 11-6) to conclude the Nakheel Table Tennis Asian Cup Saturday at Dubai World Trade Centre.
“Every time I have come to Dubai I have won a major title, so this is definitely my lucky and special place,” Xu Xin said through a translator after his victory.
Zhang Jike entered the tournament just one spot behind his Chinese team-mate, ranked No4 in the world, but with the experience of winning gold in singles at the London Olympics in 2012.
Xu Xin, however, felt that distinction only added more weight to his opponent’s shoulders during their final showdown.
“I don’t have the title of being an Olympic champion, so there’s no pressure, so I can just go for it,” he said. “Zhang Jike seemed a bit nervous because he has the pressure of being an Olympic winner.
“For me, I just want to win and not be afraid of losing.
“It’s an internal combat within the Chinese team, so we know each other’s strengths and shortcomings. It’s more how I can prevent my opponents from utilising their strengths.”
In assessing what made the difference in the match, Zhang Jike said: “From the third game, my speed was not strong enough.”
Both players are still aiming to qualify for the upcoming Rio Olympics and though Xu Xin isn’t overly focused on securing one of China’s spots, the victory does put him in strong position to reach the Games.
“This win has given me a lot of confidence,” he said.
“The final list for the Olympics is not my concern right now. What I’m concerned about right now is being devoted to my daily routine and practice.”
The men’s bronze medal was captured by Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting, who overcame Singapore’s Gao Ning 2-4 (4-11, 12-10, 11-9, 2-11, 6-11, 9-11) earlier in the day.
The three-day event once again brought some of the highest-ranked players in the sport on both the men’s and women’s side to the emirate, with Dawoud Al Hajiri, president of the UAE Badminton and Table Tennis Association, saying: “This is the fourth time that we’ve brought champions of the world to Dubai.
“This gives us encouragement to bring even more champions to Dubai and we’re very happy that the Asian Cup was successful.
“Table tennis is growing big time. We hope in the next four to five years, to have a bigger plan. We are very enthusiastic and are very much looking forward to further developing the sport in the UAE.”