by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Prior to the contest starting, the conjecture was as to the which three players would Jörg Rosskopf, the German coach, select; the previous day against Korea at the semi-final stage, Dimitrij Ovtcharov had been totally out of sorts. Furthermore, throughout the whole tournament, the choice had changed consistently.
The decision was that Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the player who at the start of the year had been listed in top spot on the world rankings, would be resigned to the bench. Ruwen Filus was the replacement, as the previous evening against Korea, Timo Boll and Patrick Franziska were once again on duty.
Conversely for China, even though it is the country with the greatest reservoir of talent in the world, the decision was highly predictable. Fan Zhendong, Ma Long and Xu Xin were the automatic choices.
A good start vital, facing Timo Boll, Ma Long gave China that good start; no strangers, Ma Long, well aware of the renowned quick-fire forehand of his adversary, continually directed his first attacking stroke towards the backhand of the German. Furthermore, with his own forehand, he was fast to pounce on any Timo Boll service that drifted a fraction long.
Ma Long dominated the opening game, to his great credit Timo Boll responded to lead 7-5 in the second but was not able to capitalise on the advantage. Ma Long won the next three points, Timo Boll called “Time Out”; the break was not to bear fruit. A possible crisis was averted, Ma Long was now in full flow, he won the first four points of the third game, he never looked back; a straight games win was posted (11-4, 11-8, 11-4).
“I put Timo in the higher position, I watched him play yesterday and he played to a high level. Today I was very active. In these matches you need to be technically and mentally good, both are equally important; when I was losing in the second game I tried to take the initiative.” Ma Long
Imperious, Ma Long had set the example, in a similar authoritative style Fan Zhendong overcame the defensive skills of Ruwen Filus in straight games (11-4, 11-5, 11-4); he was never in serious danger. China led two-nil.
“I have played against him before, so I was prepared, I was ready for any difficulties. Even when I was leading I knew that I must keep my concentration. Ruwen Filus is a player against whom you have to be patient; you must wait for the first opportunity to play an attacking stroke.” Fan Zhendong
The reigning champions ever closer, Xu Xin completed the task set, he beat Patrick Franziska but not without some difficulties; he lost the opening game and trailed 4-8 in the second before winning eight of the next 10 points to level matters.
Patrick Franziska, gallant, fought for the cause but the second game recovery had swayed the balance in favour of Xu Xin; a four games result (9-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-5) in favour of China was the outcome. The mission had been accomplished.
“I’m so happy, I was under pressure but I responded and the crowd supported me; when I was losing in the second game I knew I had my team mates to follow even if I lost but I believed in myself and I became more active.” Xu Xin
It was for Liu Guozheng success in his first attempt in the role of coach, for China it was the 21st time in 26 appearances in a Men’s Team final at a World Championships that the end result was the top step of the podium.
Once again the Swaythling Cup was in Chinese hands.