China’s Zhendong and Meng triumph at 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open
Over 160 male and 115 female players from around the world participated in the $400,000 total prize-money six-day event, the 25th edition of the annual tournament, held at the Aspire Dome in Doha.
Zhendong, the world no.1 defeated England’s Liam Pitchford over six epic games in the final (11-9, 11-7, 8-11, 11-4, 6-11, 11-7) to claim the $44,000 winner’s prize money while Meng, also the women’s top-ranked player, beat Japan’s Mima Ito, the no.3 seed, (3-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-7, 11-7) to claim a similar amount as the winner in the women’s event.
The final match was witnessed by the ITTF President Thomas Weikert, Qatar Table Tennis Association President (QTTA) and ITTF Deputy President Khalil Al Mohannadi, Chinese Table Tennis Association President CTTA President Liu Guoliang.
En route the victory, Zhendong had survived a scare in the first round, when he was taken to seven games by Sweden’s Anton Kallberg (7-11, 11-6, 11-13, 11-5, 7-11, 11-8, 11-3), but his title charge intensified after seeing off Sweden’s Jon Persson (11-9, 11-9, 11-7, 6-11, 12-10) in the quarter-final before winning yet another tight battle against China’s most promising teenage talent Wang Chuqin, the no.9 seed (7-11, 8-11, 11-6, 14-12, 11-7, 11-9).
Wang had caught the attention of the table tennis world when in the second round he overcame the reigning Olympic and World champion Ma Long, the no.3 seed (13-15, 14-12, 4-11, 11-8, 3-11, 13-11, 11-6).
With the defeat of Pitchford, Zhendong regained the Qatar Open crown, having previously won in 2018, and he also sealed his 14th career title on the ITTF World Tour.
“Today in the first game, I was down 6-9 and then 0-4 in the second, but I was prepared for such a situation before the match. He (Pitchford) has been in good form over the past few matches, so I made sure to do my homework on him. I expected him to perform. His improvement and growth are there for the entire table tennis world to see. He is an opponent to respect and be wary of,” said Zhendong after the victory.
For Meng, she has now won 17 out of 21 women’s singles finals on the ITTF World Tour.
The top seed maintained her renowned mental strength throughout the later rounds, beating China’s Wang Yidi, the no.11 seed (11-5, 11-8, 13-15, 11-6, 11-6), and another teammate Wang Manyu, the no.4 seed and defending champion (10-12, 11-7, 11-9, 11-13, 11-5, 11-4), before overcoming Ito to take the title.
“I think I am still not getting into the match fast enough. The focus I showed from the second game onwards, I simply did not have in that first game I lost. There will always be nerves at the start of the match and I was not relaxed enough. She (Ito) has a great ability to read the game and is regularly reaching finals and semi-finals. She still has that desire to put up a fight against us (Chinese women’s players) without fear,” said Meng.
Speaking about the tournament, Al Mohannadi, the QTTA president, appreciated the support of the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC), under the leadership of the President His Excellency Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, the organizing committee and sponsors towards the success of the tournament despite the prevailing challenges being experienced globally which has led to the cancellation of many events.
“We are happy that this tournament was a success. The tournament featured the world’s top players and they gave a good account of themselves. We believe that it has benefited our players as well as they further gained the necessary experience playing against the world’s best players,” Al Mohannadi said.
The annual Qatar Open is only one of the six World Tour Platinum events on the ITTF calendar and it has consistently featured the top players in the world over the years.
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