China beat host S Korea to reach men’s final at World Team Table Tennis Championships

Busan, South Korea: China withstood huge pressure from hosts South Korea to triumph in a full-set thriller here on Saturday, moving one win away from achieving its 11th straight men’s title at the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals.

In the semifinal clash which lasted over three hours, world No. 1 Fan Zhendong picked up two wins and saved China from the brink of defeat, while Wang Chuqin made amends for his opening loss with a straight-game victory in the decisive matchup, reports Xinhua.

Amid the loud cheers from the crowd at the full-packed Busan Exhibition and Convention Center, Wang stepped up to the table first, facing off against Jang Woo-jin, the highest-ranked player in South Korea’s squad.

Fueled by the home crowd’s support, the 14th-ranked Jang raced ahead by one game at 11-7, but Wang pocketed eight points in a row on his way to an 11-2 victory in the second game to restore parity.

As both players focused on their first three strokes, quite a few rallies were seen for the most part of the match. Down 1-4 in the third game, Wang went neck and neck with his rival for an 11-all tie, before the home paddler scored two straight points to prevail.

Facing a 1-4 deficit in the fourth game, Wang called a timeout, while Jang’s two catch-net points thwarted the comeback effort from the world No. 2, who fell 11-6 as it marked the first dropped set for the reigning champions in the Busan event.

Fan was next to hit the court, with the 18th-ranked Lim Jong-hoon across the table. Fan went ahead 7-4 in the opening game, but Lim put it on level terms at 7-all, before Fan kept his cool to win the game 11-8.

China’s top-ranked paddler had a perfect winning record in his previous four encounters with Lim, and he gained the upper hand throughout their duel, prevailing 11-6, 11-8 in the next two games to put his side level on the scoreboard.

The two sides turned to their veterans in the third set. 33-year-old home paddler Lee Sang-su took the initiative with an 11-7 victory in the first game. However, 35-year-old Olympic champion Ma Long, who had a 7-1 win-loss record in their head-to-heads, soon evened the match at 11-4.

In a pivotal third game, after the two players tied at 10-all, Lee snatched two late points to move ahead again.

Despite emerging victorious 11-6 in the fourth game to level the score again, Ma fell 11-4 in the deciding game as South Korea gained a 2-1 advantage.

Stepping on the court again, Fan and Jang put on their duel between the two sides’ No. 1 paddlers. With the defending champions’ hope of forcing the decisive matchup resting on his shoulders, Fan lived up to his task, prevailing 11-6, 11-7, 12-10 with both teams returning to level terms.

Wang closed out China’s nail-biting victory with an 11-5, 11-7, 11-6 win against Lim.

The final hurdle for China’s title defense on Sunday will be either France or Chinese Taipei, who will cross swords later on Saturday.



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