Qatar Open: Timo Boll Wins Dramatic Final

ITTF Press Release

In the most dramatic of finals, Germany’s Timo Boll kept his nerve and maintained his concentration to win the Men’s Singles event at the Qatar Open on Saturday 21st February 2009, in what was arguably the very best match of the whole five days of action in the splendid surroundings of the Doha.

He beat China’s Ma Lin 6-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-7, 6-11, 6-11, 14-12 and in so doing prevented the Chinese star of achieving what no other player at the Qatar Open has ever achieved; winning the title three times in consecutive years.

Ma Lin won in 2007 and 2008, he came so close in 2009; Croatia’s Zoran Primorac won in 1998, 2000 and 2001, the only player with three Men's Singles wins at the Qatar Open. Furthermore, they were in succession; there was no tournament in 1999.

Meanwhile, Ma Lin's colleague Wang Liqin has won twice as has Belgium's Jean-Michel Saive.

Furthermore if the year ends in nine then Boll would seem happy in Qatar; in 1999 he won the Under 21 Men’s Singles crown at the Qatar Open.

Serve and First Attack
Ma Lin is the master of service and first attack; preventing him attacking quickly after the service was the biggest problem facing Timo Boll in the opening exchanges.

At 6-all it was parity but then the next five points all went the way of Ma Lin; he was one game to the good, a confidence booster.

The German responded, in the second game matters were level at 8-all; a scintillating rally and it was advantage Germany; then a Ma Lin error and Timo Boll led 10-8.

A chance to level matters and it was seized with both hands by Timo Boll, he won the next point and the match score was level.

Lip Service
One game all, there was then a pause in play, the lower lip of Ma Lin needing attention, slightly bleeding.

The pause was brief but it was Timo Boll who struck early in the third game. He went ahead 3-1.

Ma Lin recovered to level at 5-all but then making full use of the table, spreading Ma Lin far and wide, often wide to the forehand, Boll went ahead 8-5; he continued the policy, his backhand unerring. He won the game 11-6 to move ahead by two games to one.

Receiving service and being left handed, Timo Boll stood very much towards the forehand court to receive service; thus enabling him to see the contact point of racket on ball when the right handed Ma Lin served.

Also, if Boll return the service into the body of Ma Lin, he was able to cover the forehand or backhand first attack of Ma Lin across the diagonal.

The tactic worked well in the fourth game. Boll established a 9-5 lead and he maintained the lead. He won the game 11-7.

Clever serving, outstanding over the table and near the net; Ma Lin responded in the fifth game.

He established a 9-4 lead, he won the game 11-6, the match arrears were down to one game.

Sixth Game
There was nothing to choose between the two players at the start of the sixth games; they were level at 5-all.

At that stage Ma Lin accelerated, he moved ahead 7-5, then extended the lead to 8-5 before Timo Boll replied. Ma Lin maintained the ascendancy to win the game 11-6. A deciding seventh game beckoned.

Seventh Game
The crown was encapsulated; Boll made the better start; on his own service he won the first two points.

Ma Lin responded immediately but when the players changed ends it was Boll who had the advantage at 5-3; any fortune being on his side.

The level of play rose, the next point saw Boll returning topspins from a sitting position; he led 5-4.

Boll and the crowd drew breath; the German won the next point. Liu Guoliang, the Chinese coach on duty called “Time Out”.

The very next point saw a Ma Lin forehand topspin error but at 7-5 the gap was back to two points. The next two points were shared 8-6, then two points to Ma Lin. It was 8-all but Boll had two serves to come.

He made the most use of the situation. He went ahead 10-8. Serving Ma Lin won the next point. Timo Boll called “Time Out”.

Ma Lin levelled, then a golden chance for Timo Boll he missed a comparatively simple forehand topspin by his standards, it was parity; then two match points for Ma Lin, both saved, then a third chance for Timo Boll.

It was grasped; the verdict 14-12 in the seventh game to Timo Boll and a reversal of recent fortunes against Ma Lin.

Boll Won First Meeting
Previous results were very much in favour of Ma Lin; he had won 12 of their previous encounters in world ranking events; furthermore he had succeeded on the last three occasions that the duo had met.

He won when they met for the very first time in September 1999 in the third round of proceedings at the Panasonic China Open but then had to wait until October 2005 when he succeeded at the semi-final stage in Liege at Liebherr Men’s World Cup.

Recent Success for China
It was a tournament he progressed to win beating Ma Lin’s colleague, Wang Hao, in the final; the win was clearly a confident booster. The German prevailed in their next encounter; he won in Bremen in April 2004 when the two met in the semi-final clash in the Liebherr World Team Championships.

However, that was his last; Ma Lin has won the most recent four duels, the most recent being at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games when he prevailed in four games (matches being best of five games) in the Men’s Team final.

Drought Ended
In Doha he ended the drought.

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