China’s men and women teams re-asserted their continuing dominance of the world game as they secured, respectively, their seventh and eighth successive titles in the International Table Tennis Federation’s Team World Cup with 3-0 victories over Japan at the Copper Box Arena on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London.
Led by captain Ma Long, the Olympic and world champion, with world number two Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin in support, the men were unstoppable as they secured their ninth win in 11 editions since this event began in 1990.
If anything could have sent the Japanese team into this final with belief it would surely have been their semi-final performance, where, after South Korea had come from two games down to draw level, they had progressed thanks to a final match in which Jin Ueda saved five match points before winning.
Crowned World champions in Rotterdam in 2011, the ideal partnership, the right handed shake-hands grip allied with a left handed pen-holder Ma Long and Xu Xin was the partnership selected by Liu Guozheng, the Chinese coach.
A formidable pair, also you can add to the equation that if a ranking list of powerful forehands was inaugurated, they would head the list.
Great credit to Koki Niwa and Jin Ueda; they never flinched in their task, they contributed immensely to a contest which enthralled the full to capacity auditorium, the quality of the rallies breath-taking.
But Ueda and partner Koki Niwa, despite trying all their knew, were unable to withstand the challenge of Ma and Xu Xin in the opening doubles match, losing 11-8, 11-9, 11-7.
Fan then stepped up to put China within one match of overall victory with a straight-sets win over 14-year-old prodigy Tomokazu Harimoto, 11-7, 11-8, 11-8.
"It is the first time that I have played Tomokazu," said Fan.
"I prepared thoroughly and focused on just playing one point at a time.
"Before every match, in the Chinese team, we always prepare and study videos."
Ma then stepped up to apply the coup de grace against an opponent whom he had beaten on nine of the previous 10 occasions, Koki Niwa.
The victory was not entirely untroubled, however, as, after losing the first game 11-8, Niwa raised his level and took advantage of some uncharacteristic errors from the Chinese captain, drawing level with an 11-3 win.
But Ma composed himself to see out the win by winning 11-5, 11-3 in the next two games, to the delight of the many members of London’s Chinese community present.
"It is quite normal to lose a game," said Ma.
"In the second game Koki Niwa played very well; I kept my focus and came through.
"Now I need to get some sleep - last night in the hotel there was a fire alarm!"
It was the sixth time Ma and Xu Xin were members of the winning team; both made their debuts in the competition in 2009 in Linz and have been present ever since.
There is no team that can better the record of China’s men in this competition - other than China’s women, who have now won 10 of the 11 finals.
Olympic singles and team gold medallist Ding Ning, her Rio 2016 team-mate Liu Shiwen, four times an individual World Cup winner, and last year’s World Cup singles champion Zhu Yuling, all under the tutelage of Li Sun, the national coach, did not disappoint their many supporters.
World champion pairing Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen gave their team the ideal start by beating Hina Hayata and Mima Ito, although the recently crowned Japanese national champions did not make it easy for them.
After the Chinese pair had won the first two games 11-7, 11-6, their opponents pulled a game back by 11-6, only to succumb in the fourth game by 11-8.
Zhu Yuling then doubled the advantage with an 11-5, 11-7, 11-7 win over Kasumi Ishikawa before Ding Ning returned to the Arena for what proved to be the decisive singles match against Mima Ito.
Having won the first game 11-7, Ding encountered significant resistance at 8-8 in the second before pushing on to take it 11-9 and the next game 11-8.
To underline the level of success that China’s women have established over more than a quarter-of-a-century, the only time they have lost a match in this competition was in 1994 when they had to settle for bronze after being beaten by eventual silver medallists Germany.
"We were well prepared for the final, the atmosphere is very good in the Arena; most certainly it was important to win the opening match and give our team a good start," said Liu Shiwen.
"I am very happy to have won all my matches here; thanks to the fans for the support,” said Ding Ning.
"Last year I took a break - I don’t think I’m full back 100 per cent but I’m on the road.
"I will keep trying my best, I hope I’ll be in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games."