Ma Long reacts during the men's singles semi-final against Zhou Qihao at the 2021 WTT (World Table Tennis) Grand Smashes Trials and Olympic Simulation in Xinxiang, May 6, 2021. (LI JIANAN / XINHUA)
XINXIANG, North China - Olympic and world champion Ma Long failed to make the men's singles final after losing in full sets to Zhou Qihao here on Thursday at the Chinese table tennis Olympic simulation.
The 32-year-old former world No 1 tried to launch a late comeback from two sets down, but wasted an 8-4 lead after forcing a decisive seventh set and stumbled to the eventual failure 11-5, 13-11, 9-11, 8-11, 14-12, 4-11, 11-8.
Ma seemed extremely upset and left the court directly, refusing a mixed zone interview request.
Both men's and women's singles top seeded paddlers have made it through to the finals with hard-fight victories.
Former world No 1 Ma Long tried to launch a late comeback from two sets down, but wasted an 8-4 lead after forcing a decisive seventh set and stumbled to the eventual failure 11-5, 13-11, 9-11, 8-11, 14-12, 4-11, 11-8
World No 1 Fan Zhendong found it's far from enough to have led 2-0 on sets when the rival player was a teammate from the all-time leading Chinese team.
The 24-year-old, who's still looking for a heavy-weight championship, an Olympic gold or a world title, needed six sets to beat Wang Chuqin, currently ranked 14th in the world, 11-7, 11-6, 5-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-8.
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"It rings an alarm as my quarterfinal victory last night also came after a 2-0 lead was denied and things then got harsh and complicated for me," Fan said as he recalled his 4-2 win over 16-year-old Lin Shidong on Wednesday.
"When it exposes so many problems in my own play, the competition is no longer a simulation to me, but a very serious event," said Fan, who's expecting to make an Olympic debut in less than 80 days in Tokyo.
Earlier in the morning, the women's singles top seed Chen Meng denied a fourth set comeback from world No 6 Zhu Yuling, wrapping it up 11-9, 11-9, 12-10, 8-11, 11-8 to reach the final.
"Zhu and I grow up together in the national team and have both competed at a high level for a long time. We could feel each other's tactical changes on the court. It's normal if the game goes either way," she said.
Chen will face 20-year-old Sun Yingsha on her way to contending for the title after the latter rallied 11-5, 5-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-7, 11-6 later on Thursday evening.
In the mixed doubles play, Ma Te and Liu Fei, a pair of two defensive players, continued their heroic campaign by taking full sets to see off second seeds Liang Jingkun and Sun Yingsha 12-10, 12-14, 6-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-8.
Their final rivals will be Zhou Yu and Chen Xingtong, who surprisingly ousted world champions Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen on Wednesday before beating Lin Gaoyuan and Zhang Rui 11-4, 11-5, 2-11, 8-11, 2-11, 13-11, 13-11 in the semis.
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