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April 29, 2019

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Home » Sports » Table Tennis

China’s Ma takes 3rd world crown in a row

China’s Ma Long claimed his third straight men’s singles title at the world championships in Budapest, Hungary, yesterday, becoming the first man in over half a century to do so.

The 30-year-old multi-Olympic champion’s top spin attacks and placement shots were too much for Swede Mattias Falck, as Ma won 11-5, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 11-5.

Ma is only the third man in history to have claimed three or more consecutive singles crowns, a feat that had not been achieved since compatriot Zhuang Zedong won the 1961, 1963 and 1965 editions of the biannual tournament.

Hungary’s Viktor Barna won four consecutive titles in the 1930s, when the worlds were held every year.

Ma had to be at his best to beat Falck, who plays a unique game with pimpled rubber on forehand and is coached by 1991 world champion Jorgen Persson.

“This was a really difficult final,” Ma said.

Liu Guoliang, president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association and formerly a redoubtable player in his own right, hailed Ma’s mental strength and consistent play.

“Ma Long is coming closer to being the greatest player in history,” said Liu. “His mind and skills are unbelievable.”

Falck was the first Swede to reach the men’s final since Jan-Ove Waldner claimed his second singles gold at the 1997 worlds.

“Falck came from a country with a rich table tennis tradition which understands the Chinese way of pimpled rubber and fast attacking,” said Liu.

“The final was China against Europe, but what’s interesting is that Ma uses a more European style and Falck plays in a more Chinese style,” said Liu’s elder brother Liu Guodong, head coach of China’s Hong Kong team.

Falck had troubled Ma in the third game and led 7-3 in the fourth, before Ma pegged him back to 11-9.

Ma punched the air after his victory, appearing calmer than in his first post-final celebration in 2015, when he jumped on the table and posed like a king.

“I represent more than myself,” said the three-time champion. “I represent the Chinese team and China.”

Ma’s compatriot Liang Jingkun and South Korean An Jae-hyun shared the bronze.

Ma had earlier claimed the men’s doubles title with Wang Chuqin. Liu Shiwen won the women’s singles and the mixed doubles titles.

China completed a clean sweep of the world championships golds as Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu came from two games down to beat Japanese duo Hina Hayata and Mima Ito 4-2 (8-11, 3-11, 11-8, 11-3, 12-10, 11-8) later yesterday.


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