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Wang, Zhang reign at worlds

WANG Hao of China defeated compatriot Wang Liqin in the men's singles final yesterday as China completed an impressive sweep of the gold medals at the world championships in Japan.

The top-seeded Wang took control from the first game on his way to an 11-9, 13-11, 11-5, 11-9 win over his fifth-seeded compatriot from Shanghai at Yokohama Arena.

Olympic champion Zhang Yining defeated defending champion and fellow Chinese Guo Yue in six games to win the women's singles title.

China won all gold medals on offer at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and swept the podium here in both men's and women's singles.

Wang Liqin upset Olympic gold medalist Ma Lin in the semifinals on Monday but was no match for the Beijing silver medalist in yesterday's men's final.

Wang Hao had a five-point lead in the final game but saw the gap closed to 10-9 before winning with a backhand that Wang Liqin returned long.

Wang Hao, who won silver in Beijing, said his mental toughness had made the difference in Yokohama.

"I was very disappointed in the past championships and the two Olympic Games. But this time I prepared very well, since the Beijing Games. This is the result of that," said the 25-year-old champion.

"Of course, it's important to practice, but I learned that it's also important to prepare well mentally. I have been in pretty good form since 2007 and I won the World Cup as well. I'm very confident right now.

"I'm very happy to become the singles world champion. My next goal, or dream, is to win the gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012," added Wang Hao, who improved his record against Wang Liqin to 10-11.

Former world No. 1 Wang Liqin said: "I hadn't expected that I would finish runner-up, so I'm quite happy with the result."

Guo looked set to defend her title in the women's final before the top-seeded Zhang recovered from a two-set deficit for a 10-12, 3-11, 11-2, 11-7, 11-7, 11-9 win.

Zhang erased a 1-4 disadvantage in the final game and won when Guo missed a forehand smash.

Zhang - who lost to Guo in the 2007 championships - stretched her head-to-head record against Guo to 10 wins and four defeats.

"When I won the Athens Olympic singles and doubles gold medals, I was more excited. I'm not so excited this time, but still I'm happy about it," said Zhang, 27.

"This is the first big tournament since the ITTF changed the rules and I didn't know how far I could reach with the speed of the ball reduced. I just tried to play my usual game and it was a big success to win the title.

"Guo Yue is young and she has good skills as well. She is a tough opponent to play against. When I was 3-6 down in the last game, I just tried to do my 100 percent until the end."

China also won the mixed doubles title, as well as men's and women's doubles.

The only medals China didn't win were the bronze medals in the women's and men's doubles which were won by South Korea and Japan, respectively.


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