Table Tennis has a new Olympic Men’s Singles champion. He is Ma Long. The Chinese who obstructed our boy, Aruna Quadri from getting to the medal zone of the Table Tennis event of the Rio Olympics. Ma Long defeated the previous title holder Zhang Jike with a dominant 4-0 triumph, a repeat of the result he obtained against Quadri.
Though he stopped Quadri in the quarter finals, he confessed after the epic battle that a new tennis sensation had arrived. He said that it would not be long before Quadri climbs the world stage. Though a painful loss, Nigerians celebrated Quadri for making history as the first African to get the quarter finals in the Olympics.
NOC President, Engr Habu Gumel described him as the shining star of the Olympics for Team Nigeria.
Ma’s performance on the night was on another planet, as the world number one saw off the player seeded just below him in 2nd (Zhang) without dropping a single game. However, despite the crushingly one-sided end scoreline, Zhang gave the new champion a good match as fans were treated to a wonderful final.
The first game of the final opened brightly as Ma and Zhang produced some fantastic rallies right from out of the blocks. Ma made a positive start to the end and went 8-4 in front, but Zhang then began to grow into the game, winning a number of points with shots down the line from his backhand side to edge 8-9 ahead.
Both competitors knew how important it was to take game one, and Ma did just that (14-12) to earn the early advantage.
After the break at the end of the first game, there were even more high-paced engrossing rallies played. Zhang’s apparent flaw appeared to lie with his backhand-to-backhand shots, with Ma winning the majority of the points to double his lead in games to 2-0 (11-5).
Ma was becoming more and more confident by the second, while simultaneously dampening Zhang’s mood. Game three featured a masterclass in attack-against-attack, and attack-against-defence rallies, both players giving it their all as the atmosphere in the Riocentro – Pavilion 3 hit fever pitch. But the same pattern panned out and Ma extended his lead (11-4) to move ever closer to Olympic glory.
Zhang’s body language heading into the fourth game looked negative, and the 28-year-old fell 3-0 down leading to his time out. China’s Head Coach Liu Guoliang sat in the stands to show respect for both of his athletes, leaving it up to Zhang to find his way back into the final. Despite winning back-to-back points after the break, Zhang simply ran out of ideas for an alternative approach as Ma finished off his opponent in straight games (14-12, 11-5, 11-4, 11-4) to seal the gold medal for China.