Three Year Wait Over, Zhang Jike Overcomes Ma Long to Claim Gold
2016 ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open
Courtesy of ITTF
Outstanding success in 2012 when securing gold at the London Olympic Games, one year later in the French capital city of Paris, the Men’s Singles title retained at the Liebherr 2013 World Championships; since those halcyon days, China’s Zhang Jike has not enjoyed the best of fortunes.
On Sunday March 20th at the 2016 ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open, in the impressive setting of the Salwa Club, the 28 year old did enjoy the best of fortunes.
The no.4 seed, he beat compatriot Ma Long, the top seed, his successor as World Champion, to secure the Men’s Singles title. Zhang Jike won in five games (11-9, 11-9, 5-11, 12-10, 11-9).
It is the sixth time that Zhang Jike has won an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title; quite surprisingly it is the first time he has won since he beat Ma Long in the final in Kuwait in 2013.
Furthermore, half of the ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles secured by Zhang Jike have been gained at the expense of Ma Long.
Additional to overcoming Ma Long in Kuwait on what is now two occasions; he also beat Ma Long in the final in Slovenia in 2012.
“As teammates, we know each other very well, so it’s normal that we have a close match; even though it was four-one, the four games that I won were all by the minimal two point margin”, explained Zhang Jike. “Today against Ma Long, I think I won because of my mind-set.”
Zhang Jike rose to the challenge to beat his compatriot, the player who in recent times has been unstoppable.
“Ma Long has been in top form lately and has won many major titles in the past year, so I was ready to go all out to fight tonight”, added Zhang Jike. “I think the most important aspect of competition is when both parties give their best and fight; that shows respect.”
Toughest Match at Quarter-Final Stage
Success against Ma Long in the final and earlier in the day, in the penultimate round in opposition to compatriot, Fan Zhendong, the no.2 seed, he also won in five games (11-9, 12-10, 3-11, 11-9, 11-9).
Impressive wins but Zhang Jike was quick to accept that his most exacting duel had been the previous day at the quarterfinal stage when extended the full seven games by Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov (9-11, 11-4, 11-7, 9-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-8).
“My best match was probably the quarterfinal against Dimitrij Ovtcharov last night, he’s a tough opponent”, added Zhang Jike. “I think throughout the tournament, I was in form both physically and mentally, especially as the tournament progressed, things went better.”
Success for Zhang Jike, in what was his 10th career ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles final appearance; for Ma Long it was his 43 visit to the title-deciding match, the 11th time he has been the runner-up.
He remains level with colleague Wang Liqin in second place with 21 wins on the all-time list; Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus continues to lead with 26 such successes.
Men’s Singles Final
ZHANG Jike (CHN) def. MA Long (CHN) 4-1 (11-9,11-9,5-11,12-10,11-9)
Women’s Singles Final
LI Xiaoxia (CHN) def. DING Ning (CHN) 4-1 (11-6,2-11,11-9,11-9,11-8)
Men’s Doubles Final
XU Xin (CHN) / ZHANG Jike (CHN) def. HO Kwan Kit (HKG) / TANG Peng (HKG) 3-1 (6-11,11-9,11-8,11-5)
Women’s Doubles Final
DING Ning (CHN) / LIU Shiwen (CHN) def. LI Xiaoxia (CHN) / ZHU Yuling (CHN) 3-0 (11-4,11-6,11-5)
Visit ITTF’s 2016 Kuwait Open competition page for more results and information.