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Wednesday May 22, 2013

Zhang Jike retains world crown to secure fourth major title in a row

<b>Paddle power:</b> China’s Zhang Jike in action against compatriot Wang Hao during the men’s singles final at the World Table Tennis Championships in Paris on Monday. —
EPA Paddle power: China’s Zhang Jike in action against compatriot Wang Hao during the men’s singles final at the World Table Tennis Championships in Paris on Monday. — EPA

PARIS: Defending champion Zhang Jike of China retained his men’s singles title at the World Table Tennis Championships in Paris on Monday after defeating compatriot Wang Hao in the final.

Fourth seed Zhang Jike prevailed 11-7, 11-8, 6-11, 14-12, 5-11, 11-7 in a rematch of last year’s Olympic final to secure a fourth major title in a row.

Zhang Jike completed a career grand slam when he pipped Wang Hao to the Olympic crown in London last August, adding to the world title he won two years ago in Rotterdam and the 2011 World Cup, with Wang Hao also the losing finalist on both of those occasions.

Ma Long took top honours at last year’s World Cup in Liverpool, an event in which Zhang Jike did not take part.

Having raced into a two games to love lead in the French capital, Zhang Jike was pegged back by Wang Hao in game three and the contest appeared to be heading for two-all only for Zhang Jike to fight off four set points in the fourth frame to re-establish a two-game advantage.

Wang Hao, the 2009 champion, then took the following game to preserve his title hopes but it proved to be merely a stay of execution as Zhang Jike wrapped things up in game six at the first time of asking.

“It was a very closely-fought match, we both played well,” Zhang Jike said afterwards, his dominance over Wang Hao extended with a seventh straight success over the world No. 3 that improved his head-to-head record against Wang Hao to 8-3.

“For me there is no loser, the most important thing was to enjoy the match and I did that,” Zhang Jike continued, paying tribute to his opponent.

“I’ve been in Paris twice (the 2011 World Cup being the other). Both times I’ve won the final so I really love it here,” added the 25-year-old, who said his next goal was to win all three major titles again.

Despite coming up short against Zhang Jike yet again, beaten finalist Wang Hao was not too downhearted by the loss.

“I’m actually not really disappointed. I’m really happy to have got to the final,” said Wang Hao, who hinted at retirement from the national set up.

“This may be my last game so I really just wanted to enjoy it,” said the 29-year-old.

“I wanted to use this game as a way to thank all the people who have been so supportive of me.

“I really want to continue playing, I don’t want to give it up but I cannot deny that younger players are doing better.” — AFP

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