The winner in December 2012 in Hangzhou, Xu Xin repeated the feat in Dubai on Sunday 12th January 2014 at the GAC Group 2013 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals; in so doing he become only the second player ever to claim the Men’s Singles title in consecutive years.
The only other player to achieve the feat is his Chinese National Team colleague, Ma Long, the player he beat in the final in Dubai; Ma Long won the 2008 and 2009 editions of the tournament, both staged in Macau.
At the final hurdle in Dubai, Xu Xin emerged successful in a seven games duel of the highest calibre (11-8, 10-12, 11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 4-11, 11-5).
Battle of Titans
Not in terms of physique but in terms of awesome forehand attacking power, the contest was a heavyweight championship bout, with the blows gaining the unbridled plaudits of the crowd, a large Chinese contingent being present.
Xu Xin won the first game, in the second game he led 9-8; Ma Long captured the next two points, a chance beckoned but a forehand top spin down the line of awesome proportions from Xu Xin saved the point.
Alas for Xu Xin that was the last point he won in the game, the next two went to Ma Long; it was parity.
Time Out Call
However, Xu Xin recovered to secure the third game and in the fourth led 7-4; understandably Ma Long called “Time Out”.
It proved a most prudent call, he won the next five points to move ahead 9-7. Xu Xin ended the sequence but at 10-8, Ma Long held two game points; he needed just one. It was parity.
Strong with the first attack, the early timing on the ball being a trademark factor, Xu Xin moved into a 5-2 lead in the fifth game; the long forehand topspin stroke in full flow and the controlled heavy top spin from the backhand proving most effective, he moved ahead 8-5.
It was a lead he never relinquished, the fifth game was secured.
Twice Ma Long had recovered to level the match score; the question was could he complete the task for a third time.
The answer was in the affirmative, he raced into a 6-1 lead in the sixth game and just as in the previous game, Xu Xin had never released the stranglehold, neither did Ma Long. He levelled matters to force a decider.
In the deciding seventh game, Xu Xin trading blows with Ma Long established a 5-1 lead; simply in the forehand counter top spin department he more than matched his adversary.
It was a lead that proved decisive; Xu Xin was on fire. He extended the lead to 9-2 and at 10-3 held seven match points.
Ma Long realising the end was nigh went into exhibition mode and completely baffled the officials, who awarded the next point to Ma Long when it should have been to Xu Xin. The players corrected the score.
However, with normal service resumed, on his third match point, Xu Xin prevailed; the title had been retained.
In Hangzhou he had beaten Wang Hao in the final in four straight games; in Dubai it was a much more testing encounter, a fact Xu Xin accepted.
“I think in Hangzhou, Wang Hao was just pleased to reach the final; the tournament followed the Olympic Games”, explained Xu Xin; at the London 2012 Olympic Games Wang Hao had proved to be a vital member of China’s gold medal winning Men’s Team and had secured silver in the Men’s Singles.
“Against Ma Long, this year was a much tougher contest”, added Xu Xin. “I lost to Ma Long in Suzhou, this time I beat him, I hope I can beat him more often in the future.”
Never Established Lead
In Suzhou in the final of the Men’s Singles event at the GAC Group 2013 ITTF World Tour Harmony Open, Ma Long had won in five games; in Dubai he could never establish a clear lead.
Xu Xin won a game, Ma Long responded.
“Maybe I just relaxed a little”, concluded Xu Xin. “At the end of the sixth game I told myself to try to relax and be confident.”
Xu Xin relaxed; moreover he was positive, the early timing crucial, a lead was established, the grip on proceedings was never relaxed.
In a scintillating manner, Xu Xin was the GAC Group 2013 ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles champion, once again the gold medallist.