March 31 - China have retained their International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Team Classic titles in both men's and women's events, despite Olympic champion Zhang Jike suffering a shock defeat to Chinese Taipei's Chen Chien-An in the final in Guangzhou.
Zhang was defeated by the 20-year-old Chen -who failed to make Chinese Taipei's squad for last summer's Olympic Games - in five games, but was rescued by team-mates Ma Long and Xu Xin, who teamed up to defeat Chen Chien-An and Chiang Hung-Chieh in the doubles, before Ma beat Chiang to clinch the title for China.
Zhang dismissed that he was over-confident going into his final, admitting that his recent form has been somewhat inconsistent.
"I didn't underestimate my opponent," said Zhang.
"I felt very heavy and slow in this match and my form has been a bit unstable lately; this does not take anything away from Chen Chien-An, he was fantastic."
Chinese Head Coach Liu Guoliang also paid tribute to the performance of their final opponents, and sent a warning to rivals by stating that his team would be stronger going into May's World Championships.
"It is a good sign for the health of world table tennis that we had a new opponent in the final," he said
"They gave us a tough test and exposed some weaknesses in our team, which we will have to fix before the World Championships in six weeks' time."
The women's final was a re-match of the London 2012 final as China took on Japan once more and achieved the same outcome, taking a 3-0 whitewash to secure the title.
China's team, which featured Olympic champion Li Xiaoxia, world number one Ding Ning and Wu Yan, overcame Japan's Ai Fukuhara, Kasumi Ishikawa and Sayaka Hirano comprehensively, but paid tribute to their opponents performance following the final.
"I would like to congratulate Japan for their vast improvement over the years; this has forced me and my team to improve." said Li, who was voted women's Most Valuable Player (MVP)
"I was very nervous before the game; I am glad I was able to record this important victory."
Head coach Liu added: "Japan is one of the table tennis powerhouses, so we had to prepare very well to beat them.
"We expect an even tougher test next year where we will face them on their own turf at the 2014 World Table Tennis Team Championships in Tokyo."
Defeated finalist Fukuhara remained positive, and assured that her team would be in contention for gold next year in Tokyo.
"We are getting better and we will be even better on our own tables, in front of our own crowd next year and hopefully we can turn our silver into gold." she said.
Players will now focus on their preparation for the Liebherr 2013 World Table Tennis Championships, which take place in Paris from May 13 to May 20.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
March 2013: China look to reiterate dominance on home turf at ITTF World Team Classic