Samsonov wins again, in Germany

Defeats young Ma Long German Open final

The final of the Menís Singles event at the LIEBHERR German Open saw experience versus youth, Vladimir SAMSONOV of Belarus against MA Long of China.

Vladimir SAMSONOV, the winner of eleven Menís Singles titles during his career on the ITTF Pro Tour plus one success in 1997 at the ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals against the young pretender, MA Long; the young man who celebrated his seventeenth birthday on 20th October 2005 and was appearing in his first ever Menís Singles Final on the ITTF Pro Tour.

Playing in a final of a major event was nothing new to MA Long. He had won the Boysí Singles title at the World Junior Championships in 2004 and with KONG Linghui he had won the Menís Doubles title at the Panasonic China Open in September 2005.

At the Liebherr Menís World Cup in October, Vladimir SAMSONOV had looked in tremendous form until he had to play Chinese opposition; on the final day he lost to both WANG Hao and MA Lin. On that day he had a slight shoulder injury which caused him pain when he attacked with the forehand. Against European opposition at both the Liebherr Menís World Cup and at the Eurosib Russian Open he had reigned supreme but against Chinese opposition perhaps there was a question mark?

Advantage China
In the first game of the Menís Singles final in Magdeburg, SAMSONOV led 6-2 but then lost the next nine points! MA Long won the first game 11-6.

The speed of MA Long was causing SAMSONOV problems; he started the second game at express speed, looking for his forehand topspin (which incidentally KONG Linghui believes is in some need of improvement!) and established a 10-8 lead, he was never behind. SAMSONOV saved the first game point but he couldnít save the next. MA Long won the game 11-8.

Attack Backhand
Two games to nil in arrears, SAMSONOV went ahead 8-1 in the third game; he attacked MA Longís service whenever he could and concentrated his first attack into the backhand of the Chinese teenager. SAMSONOV won the third game 11-3. Controlling the direction of play with the backhand and looking for every opportunity to attack with the forehand, Vladimir SAMSONOV went ahead 6-3 in the fourth game.

The man from Belarus consistently sought to receive service with his forehand but MA Long, although faulted on his service on one occasion, kept playing positively. He remained mentally strong; he fought back and went one point ahead at 8-7. It was time to re-appraise, SAMSONOV called `Time Outí. However, the break worked in favour of MA Long, he won the next four points and the game. He was one game away from the title.

Urging himself forward, active, positive, MA Long played his forehand at every opportunity early in the fifth game and appeared quite comfortable in forehand topspin exchanges. SAMSONOV, understandably, concentrated his attacks, as before, on Ma Longís backhand; he went ahead 6-4, then 7-4 and when a MA Long forehand topspin flew off the end of the table he was 8-4 ahead. The Chinese teenager reduced the arrears to 9-5 but SAMSONOV was not to be denied he won the fifth game 11-5 and had reduced the match arrears to one game.

Outstanding control from the backhand saw SAMSONOV move ahead 4-1 in the sixth game, it was vintage SAMSONOV. He extended the lead to 9-3; MA Long recovered to 9-4 but no further. SAMSONOV won the sixth game 11-4; it was parity.

Final Game
Furthermore, an exciting final, it was just what the crowd wanted. SAMSONOV made the better start. He went ahead 2-0 but MA Long won the next four points; SAMSONOV then levelled at 4-all and when the players changed ends it was SAMSONOV who had a one point advantage. Three points in a row for the man from Belarus so Chinese coach WU Jingping called `Time Outí.

Initially the advice offered worked, MA Long won the next two points, the latter of which was a superb topspin exchange that kept the near five thousand strong crowd thoroughly engrossed.

Sporting Gesture
SAMSONOV recovered to 6-all, then at 6-7 down had the faintest of edges, the umpire didnít see it; MA Long to his credit advised the umpire that the ball had touched. SAMSONOV and the crowd applauded the teenager; it was a magnificent display of sportsmanship.

The next two points were shared 8-all; then MA Long went ahead 9-8 with SAMSONOV serving. The next point went to the man from Belarus it was 9-all with MA Long to serve.

SAMSONOV returned the service wide to MA Longís forehand he erred, SAMSONOV had match point. MA Long served again, it was too long. SAMSONOV attacked the service with his forehand. It went like a bullet. SAMSONOV, one knee on the floor, saluted the crowd. He had won a superb final and MA Long for his outstanding sportsmanship had won a host of new friends.

Vladimir SAMSONOV is a great sportsman and he had beaten another great sportsman.

Vladimir SAMSONOV (BLR) bt MA Long (CHN) 6-11, 8-11, 11-3, 5-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-9

Source: ITTF

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