Ma Lin Returns To Winning Ways
Defeats Chen Qi in Kuwait Open Men's Singles Final
Chinaís Ma Lin won his eleventh Menís Singles title on the ITTF Pro Tour on Friday 24th February 2006 when he beat colleague and Menís Doubles partner, Chen Qi, in six games at the final hurdle. Earlier in the proceedings he had won the Menís Doubles title with Chen Qi and the victories ended what has been a somewhat barren spell on the ITTF Pro Tour for the Chinese star.
In the final of the Menís Singles event he beat Chen Qi in six games 11-9, 11-6, 11-8, 9-11, 8-11, 11-8.
No Titles In 2005
The victories in Kuwait are the first successes for Ma Lin on the ITTF Pro Tour since September 2004 when he won both the Menís Singles and Menís Doubles titles at the Panasonic China Open. In 2005 he competed on only two occasions on the ITTF Pro Tour.
He was on duty at the Liebherr Qatar Open where he lost in the final of the Menís Singles event to Wang Liqin and in the final of the Menís Doubles with Chen Qi to colleagues Kong Longhui and Wang Hao. Meanwhile at the Panasonic China Open in Harbin, Koreaís Lee Jung Woo ended his progress in the Menís Singles event at the quarter-final stage, whilst in the Menís Doubles Kong Linghui once again was a member of the duo who caused his downfall at the final hurdle. Partnering Wang Hao, Ma Lin suffered at the hands of Kong Linghui and Ma Long.
However, in Kuwait he excelled. In the Menís Doubles event with Chen Qi, every match was won by the margin of four games to nil whilst in the Menís Singles, he was never extended to seven games.
In the opening round he accounted for Sloveniaís Bojan Tokic in five games, in the second round Swedenís Peter Karlsson was his victim with a six games success being the order of the day, whilst in the third round Greeceís Panagiotis Gionis was beaten by the same margin. A place in the quarter-finals duly booked he beat Austriaís Werner Schlager in another six games encounter before overwhelming Li Ching in the semis in straight games to reach the final.
Against Chen Qi he started the favourite by virtue of the fact that he is the more experienced player, has a better record of success on the ITTF Pro Tour and possesses a higher World Ranking. However, previous encounters between the two players in World Ranking events gave little evidence as to who may emerge the victor. They had met on two previous occasions.
In the first encounter, the Korean Open in September 2003, Ma Lin had beaten Chen Qi in the final in six games but on the second occasion Chen Qi had prevailed, he beat Ma Lin in the quarter-finals of the Menís Singles event at the Volkswagen Open Japan in 2004. On that occasion Chen Qi progressed to win the tournament beating Chinese Taipeiís Chuan Chih-Yuan in the final.
Runner Up Again
On all three occasions on the ITTF Pro Tour that Chen Qi and Ma Lin have met, the winner of the duel has emerged as the champion and it would seem to be the case that if you beat Chen Qi in 2006 you win the tournament.
He has played in all four ITTF Pro Tour tournaments in 2006; he has lost at the final hurdle on three occasions and in Qatar in the quarters when Wang Liqin, the champion elect, ended progress.
Reaching three finals and one quarter-final in the space of six weeks on the ITTF Pro Tour is some achievement but for Chen Qi it must hurt that he has come so close and just missed out.
He is a dynamic player and he did leave Kuwait with the Menís Doubles title whilst for Ma Lin, he finished the week in style, two titles to his credit and in ominously good form. The Liebherr World Team Championships are on the horizon; Ma Lin is in good form and in Kuwait he gave a salutary warning to the rest of the World.
Photo: Ma Lin, the Men's Singles champion at the Kuwait International Open Salwa Cup
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