By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Photo By: Rémy Gros



It may not have been the greatest recovery ever in the history of table tennis and it may not have been the greatest recovery ever in a Men’s Singles final at a World Championships but it came pretty close.

China’s Wang Liqin trailed his Chinese compatriot, Ma Lin, by three games to one and in the fifth game he was 1-7 in arrears; it seemed the title was destined to go to Ma Lin.

Wang Liqin recovered and won the contest in seven games to retain his title. He won 4-11, 8-11, 11-5, 4-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-6.

Three Times
Furthermore, he became only the second player in the modern era to win the event three times; since the event has been held every two years only Zhuang Zedong has won on three occasions.

In Zagreb, Wang Liqin etched his name even more indelibly in the history books of table tennis.

Ma Lin started the contest, the more positive player; he was aggressive and attacked quickly after the service; by contrast, Wang Liqin was passive. The first two games went in quick-fire style to Ma Lin but Wang Liqin recovered to win the third.

However, it seemed that it was only a temporary reprieve; Ma Lin played aggressively in the fourth game. An amazing point at 5-4 to Ma Lin with Wang Liqin executing forehand smash after forehand smash had resulted in the latter making an error.

Ma Lin took control of the game from that point and when he led 7-1 in the fifth Wang Liqin looked forlorn.

In desperate circumstances, Wang Liqin played with a greater freedom than at any stage in the contest. Both players took `Time Outs’ before Wang Liqin levelled at 7-all; the next two points both went to Ma Lin and it appeared he had stemmed the Wang Liqin recovery. It was not to be the case, Wang Liqin won the next four points and the momentum of the match had swung.

Furthermore, it had swung dramatically in favour of Wang Liqin; he never looked back.

Bad Start
“I started badly, Ma Lin played well”, said Wang Liqin. “In the fifth game I didn’t think of losing, I just played one point at a time; before the matches today I’d read a book and I think that helped”.

“I played swell and of course in the fifth game I had a chance”, sighed Ma Lin. “I’d nearly won, possibly I relaxed, and that’s why I lost some points”. It didn’t look as though he relaxed; perhaps the thought of being World champion was in his mind and credit to Wang Liqin, he was outstanding.

Second Place
“If I understood correctly, ITTF President, Adham Sharara said to me at the Presentation Ceremony that second was as good as first”, explained Ma Lin. “It was my third defeat in a final, now I must focus on Beijing and the Olympic Games, that tournament is in my country and that’s very important.

Personal Trauma
Ma Lin was suffering personal agonies and left the Press Conference in tears.

The reason was nothing to do with the match he had lost from a winning position. Over a week ago his grandfather, on his mother’s side of the family, had jumped from a high building and committed suicide; throughout his time in Zagreb, Ma Lin had been telephoning home consistently, the request from his family was to return home as soon as possible.

A very difficult situation for Ma Lin who, to his great credit, had played magnificently in Zagreb; his personal difficulties and how he responded at the Liebherr World Championships underline the high quality of the man.

It had been an exhilarating week, the Richard Bergmann Fair Play Trophy was to awarded to Vladimir Samsonov whilst the Victor Barna award went to Wang Liqin as the best player of the week

Meanwhile, the journalists voted Ryu Seung Min and Daniela Dodean as the players to cause the biggest surprises with Guo Yue being nominated the most impressive female player.

The male player who was nominated as the most impressive was Ma Lin, a fitting tribute.

In a week of personal heartache he was a credit to China, to his family and to table tennis; the thoughts of the table tennis family are with him.