Table tennis: Two first-time world champions crowned in Houston

Table tennis: Two first-time world champions crowned in Houston

SINGAPORE – From being a reserve in China’s Olympic table tennis team, world No. 4 Wang Manyu is now a world champion after she beat compatriot and world No. 2 Sun Yingsha 4-2 (11-13, 11-7, 6-11, 11-6, 11-8, 17-15) in the 2021 World Table Tennis Championships Finals on Monday (Nov 29) in Houston, Texas.

This is Wang’s maiden world championships crown and on her way to the final, the 22-year-old avenged her 2019 semi-final loss to world No. 1 Chen Meng with a hardfought 4-3 win in this year’s semi-final.

Wang was named the reserve for China’s team at the Tokyo Olympics and eventually helped her team win their fourth consecutive gold after she replaced the injured Liu Shiwen.

In Texas on Monday, Sun quickly gained a 3-0 lead in the first game but Wang rallied to go ahead 10-6. But she was unable to convert any of her five game points and Sun only needed one to take the first game 13-11.

The second game also saw Wang come from behind to lead 10-6 after a few unforced errors from Sun and this time, Wang made her advantage count, taking the second game 11-7.

Sun kept her cool to win the third game 11-6 but a resurgent Wang came back to win the next two games to lead 3-2 overall, needing just one game to be crowned world champion.

The last game saw long rallies and a tight battle between the women’s doubles world champions but eventually, two unforced errors from Sun saw Wang crowned world champion for the first time.

In the post-match court-side interview, Wang said she will be celebrating by reviewing the match to see how she can improve in future games.

She added: “I am really excited and happy now. I don’t think there’s a loser in tonight’s final. We are the same age and we’re good opponents, good friends. We inspire each other to do our best so I want to give thanks to Sha-sha and all the fans that support us.”

Olympic singles silver medallist Sun, 21, said: “Firstly, I’m very pleased that I made it to the finals in all three events I participated in. I give my congratulations to Manyu, she did a very good job tonight. “We’re very familiar with each other and I made some mistakes tonight but I’m still very happy.”

Earlier in the competition, Wang and Sun retained their women’s doubles gold medal after beating Japanese duo Mima Ito and Hina Hayata. Sun also added the mixed doubles gold to her haul this year after she and Wang Chuqin defeated Japanese Tomokazu Harimoto and Hayata.

Meanwhile in the men’s singles final, a new champion was also crowned as Chinese world No. 1 Fan Zhendong comfortably beat Swedish teenager Truls Moregard 4-0 (11-6, 11-9, 11-7, 11-8).

This is Fan’s fourth world championships outing, with his previous best result being runner-up in 2017. He won the joint bronze in 2015 and was knocked out in the round of 16 in 2019.

Tokyo Olympics singles silver medallist Fan, 24, was ecstatic about the result, adding: “Actually before the game, I was really nervous because it’s not just about my own goals, I need to take responsibility (for the team) and I wanted to win this honour for our team and I did it.

“Every game is like an adventure to me, so this final game is not the final point for me and I hope I can learn a lot from this game and continue my career and develop myself.”

While world No. 77 Moregard was disappointed to lose the final, he was happy that he made it this far in the competition.

The 19-year-old said: “He’s a much better player, he’s world No. 1 for a reason and it was a tough match.”

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