World top three secure men's team title at Chinese table tennis internal tournament

Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, and Ma Long beat Lin Gaoyuan, Liang Jingkun, and Wang Chuqin 3-0

By ZK Goh

The top three in the men's table tennis world rankings lived up to their billing by combining for an impressive 3-0 win in the men's team final of China's "Tokyo 2020 Preparation Olympic Simulation Games" internal tournament.

Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic champion Fan Zhendong, Rio team Olympic champion Xu Xin, and Olympic singles champ Ma Long only dropped two games between them in the final, which was played against China's next three best men's players.

The second-seeded team, featuring Lin Gaoyuan (world number 5), Liang Jingkun (no. 8), and 2018 Youth Olympic champ Wang Chuqin (no. 12), did not provide much opposition for Fan, Xu, and Ma, who are likely favourites to be named to China's Olympic team for Tokyo 2020.

Ma and Xu pair up

Liang had won the tournament's men's singles last week, an event that Ma – the national team captain – had pulled out of due to his ongoing recovery from long-term injury.

However, he and Wang were unable to threaten Ma and Xu in the final's opening rubber in Lingshui, in the southern island province of Hainan.

Ma and Xu, who are not a regular doubles pairing in international tournaments, won the first game 11-7 and the second 11-6 before being pushed closer in the third game.

However, that also ended in their favour, 11-9, for a straight-games victory.

Fan survives early scare

World number one Fan faced Lin Gaoyuan in the first singles rubber looking to extend his team's lead.

However, Lin appeared to have other ideas, and took the opening game between the pair 11-8.

But Fan, who was eliminated at the semi-final stage of the singles tournament last week against eventual champion Liang, rebounded strongly.

He swept aside Lin with ease in the second game, 11-3, before taking the third and fourth games 11-8 and 11-6 for the 3-1 victory and his team's second point.

Ma shrugs off injury

Ma had withdrawn from the singles tournament in the round of 16 last week, citing concerns with his back.

"When I sprint back and forth, I feel that the shoulder and neck position is particularly uncomfortable. It’s getting better, but it’s still a bit difficult to play," the 31-year-old said then.

Wang, who he partnered to gold at last year's World Championships, attempted to take advantage of his opponent's lower fitness. The first game went to 26 points, with Ma finally prevailing 14-12.

Ma took the second game 11-6, but Wang fought hard again in the third – which went 14-12 in his favour – to force a fourth game.

However, Ma's experience showed in the end and the three-time Olympic gold medallist held Wang off 11-7 to clinch victory for his team.