WTT Singapore Smash: Fan Zhendong, Chen Meng crowned inaugural singles champs

Singles competition winners Fan Zhendong (left) and Chen Meng at the WTT Singapore Smash 2022.
Singles competition winners Fan Zhendong (left) and Chen Meng at the WTT Singapore Smash 2022. (PHOTO: Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Last year, they had succumbed in key competitions to their opponents in the World Table Tennis (WTT) Singapore Smash finals on Sunday (20 March).

But Chinese paddlers Fan Zhendong and Chen Meng managed to gain a measure of revenge in beating their compatriots - Olympic men's singles champion Ma Long and women's singles world champion Wang Manyu respectively - to become singles champions at the OCBC Arena.

Both of them were taken to the distance in tension-filled, seven-game thrillers, but were decisively less error-prone in their final games to each earn a prize cheque of US$100,000 (S$136,000) and the honour of being winners of the inaugural tournament.

Men's world No.1 Fan had been beaten by Ma in the gold-medal match at last year's Tokyo Olympics, and was trailing 2-3 in Sunday's men's singles final against his more illustrious rival.

However, the 25-year-old managed to steady himself in time to edge out the two-time Olympic champion 11-6, 11-6, 6-11, 9-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-7 in 71 minutes.

"It's always an honour to face Ma Long. He has been successful for so long, and I always treated our matches as important occasions," said Fan, who has a 6-16 win-loss record against Ma after Sunday's win.

"Definitely I was disappointed not to win the Olympic gold last year. But between then and now, I did some soul-searching and motivated myself to improve my game. It's a great feeling that it paid off."

Chen Meng edges Wang Manyu to avenge world championships defeat

The women's singles final was another barnstormer of a match, with equally-matched rivals pulling out all the stops to outwit and subdue each other.

In the end, Olympic champion Chen withstood the aggressive stylings of world champion Wang, and showed better composure in the decisive seventh game to clinch an exhilarating contest 11-9, 8-11, 11-9, 11-8, 6-11, 9-11, 11-8 in 85 minutes.

Not only did the victory earn the 28-year-old the inaugural Singapore Smash title, but it also avenged her defeat by Wang at last year's world championships semi-finals. The win also allowed her to return to the world No.1 spot, overtaking compatriot Sun Yingsha.

Chen said she made adjustments to her pre-match preparations, having felt fatigued midway through her semi-final clash with compatriot Wang Yidi, which also went the full seven games.

"I ate more energy-boosting food like bananas, because I fully expected another tough match," she said.

"There were so many key points during the match, sometimes I made more errors, sometimes Manyu made more. I suppose in the final game, I was able to be very focused even while she was making a strong comeback. I was just thinking, 'Win the next point, win the next point', and thankfully I was able to do so."

With the double singles competition wins, China completed a clean sweep of titles at the WTT Singapore Smash, after clinching the men's, women's and mixed doubles titles during the 7 to 20 March event.

With the arena packed out at 2,000 spectators for the singles finals, the WTT Singapore Smash is set to return for 2023, with the organisers already planning for next year's tournament.

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