China's Xu Xin and South Korea's Yang Haeun have been crowned mixed doubles champions at the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) World Championships in Suzhou, making them the first international mixed doubles duo to achieve the feat since 1966.
Despite it being their first ever partnership, the dynamic pair managed to defeat Japan's Kasumi Ishikawa and Maharu Yoshimura 11-7, 11-8, 11-4, 11-6 to claim the title.
"This victory is a result of the combined efforts by me and my partner, her performance has been very stable since our first match here in Suzhou, and she has improved a lot to help us win against the Japanese in the finals," said the world number two, Xu.
Delight soon turned into despair though for Xu as he suffered a shock defeat to compatriot Fang Bo in the fourth round of the men's singles.
Despite being ranked 11 places below his opponent in the seedings, Fang claimed victory by the minimal two-point margin in the seventh game to book his place in the quarter-finals.
Trailing 4-1 in the seventh game, Xu had to have his shoulder strapped after calling for a medical time out, before bravely returning to the fray to restore parity at 8-8.
Fang won the next two points to set up two match points and although he failed to convert either of them, and another at 11-10, a fast forehand top spin directed wide to Xu’s forehand at 12-11 clipped the edge of the table and sealed a 12-10, 11-7, 8-11, 2-11, 11-8, 9-11, 13-11 triumph.
“He is my colleague and yes he had an injury but that is sport, you win you lose”, said Fang, a former world junior champion.
“In the seventh game I must give great credit to Xu Xin for the way he fought to save the match points.”
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, Germany’s Patrick Franziska, the number 42 seed, recovered from a two games to nil deficit to beat Ukraine’s Kou Lei, the number 62 seed, 7-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-9, 11-8 and confirm his place in the last eight.
“In the first two games he played really well," said Franziska.
“I had to change, not play so fast; if I played fast I had no chance.”
China’s Ma Long, the top seed, beat South Korean defensive stalwart Joo Saehyuk 11-4, 11-3, 11-9, 10-12, 11-6 before fellow countryman Fan Zhendong, the number four seed, defeated Japan’s Koki Niwa 11-5, 12-14, 11-2, 11-2, 11-9.
Fan won the men’s singles gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing last year, four years after Koki had achieved the feat in Singapore.
Meanwhile in the women’s draw, The Netherlands’ Li Jie, the number 19 seed, lost 11-5, 11-3, 11-6, 11-2 against China’s Zhu Yuling after causing an upset in the third round by overcoming Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem, the number 12 seed, 11-7, 11-7, 11-9, 11-5.
“Overall, looking back at the whole tournament, I have to be pleased”, said Li.
“You think you are doing well but then you meet somebody like Zhu Yuling and it brings you down to earth.”
It was the second time this year that Li had played Zhu following their meeting in the second round of the ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open in February, when Zhu won in six games.
There was also success for Zhu’s compatriots, number two seed Liu Shiwen and Mu Zi, who began her journey in the qualification stage.
Liu beat South Korea’s Yang Haeun 11-5, 11-4, 11-6, 11-3 while Mu accounted for Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm, winning 12-10, 13-11, 11-5, 11-3.
As for the all-Singaporean duel between Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu, the former won 11-9, 11-9, 9-11, 12-10, 11-9.
April 2015: Olympic medallists Ovtcharov and Fukuhara suffer surprise exits at World Table Tennis Championships
April 2015: Paraguayan London 2012 player seals passage into main draw of ITTF World Championships
April 2015: International Table Tennis Federation sends condolences to those hit by Nepal earthquake
January 2015: International Table Tennis Federation to offer record prize money in 2015