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WTT Singapore Smash 2024: Double shocks as world No.1 Fan Zhendong, Olympic champion Ma Long crash out

Round-of-32 losses to Lin Shidong and Patrick Fraziska respectively throw the men's singles competition wide open at OCBC Arena

Top Chinese paddlers Fan Zhendong (left) and Ma Long suffered shock defeats at the WTT Singapore Smash 2024. (PHOTOS: WTT)
Top Chinese paddlers Fan Zhendong (left) and Ma Long suffered shock defeats at the WTT Singapore Smash 2024. (PHOTOS: WTT)

SINGAPORE — They were two of the greatest paddlers for this generation, but on Tuesday (12 March), China's world No.1 Fan Zhendong and reigning Olympic champion Ma Long both suffered shock losses that blew the men's singles competition at the WTT Singapore Smash wide open.

Fan, who was bidding for a treble of men's singles title triumphs, lost at the OCBC Arena for the first time in 13 matches, succumbing 6-11, 11-2, 9-11, 6-11 to compatriot and world No.18 Lin Shidong in the round of 32.

With the loss, the 27-year-old's reign at the top of the world ranking is also set to end next week, with China's Wang Chuqin set to reclaim the No.1 spot.

"I was well-prepared for the match and I performed exceptionally well,” said Lin. “The fourth game started with me in the lead. After losing a point on my own serve at 9-2, I hesitated about calling a time-out but decided to see how it went. When it reached 9-5, I knew I could no longer wait."

Ma, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and three-time world champion, also suffered a similar fate, falling 11-6, 9-11, 11-4, 10-12, 5-11 to Germany's world No.25 Patrick Franziska, who had also beaten the 35-year-old Chinese great at the WTT Champions event in 2022.

A jubilant Franziska said after his victory, "It's hard to find words. I mean as everyone knows, he's probably the best to ever play this game. I always believed that maybe because I won the last time, that I could beat him again. Even though he felt very well prepared in the first set, he had answers to all my shots."

With the elimination of the Chinese duo, who had featured in the men's singles finals of the first two Singapore Smash editions, there will be new finalists for the third edition of the US$1,500,000 event.

No upsets in the women's singles

There were no such major upsets in the women's singles competition, as world No.2 and 2022 Singapore Smash champion Chen Meng saw off the challenge from South Korea’s Jeon Ji-hee in straight games, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8.

Japan’s world No.12 Mima Ito also continued her winning run at the Singapore Smash 2024 by taking out Australia’s Liu Yangzi in straight games 118, 11-7, 11-6.

Germany’s world No.15 Dimitrij Ovtcharov, however, was pushed to the distance by Feng Yi-hsin of Chinese Taipei, ranked 81 positions below him. Eventually, she was able to eke out a 11-6, 11-2, 12-14, 11-13, 11-7 win.

The event also saw the introduction of Para Showcase on Tuesday, when para table tennis players from combined standing classes 6 and 7 battled for glory.

Britain's Will Bayley, the Rio 2016 Paralympics gold medallist, topped group one after defeating France’s Stephane Messi in straight games 11-3, 11-4, 11-6, while Netherlands’ Kelly van Zon - the highest-ranked player in the women's class 7 singles category - also defeated South Korea’s Park Nam-mi 11-5, 11-2, 11-3 to top group one.

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