Tokyo earthquake fails to rattle China in World Team Championships
Chinese collect their seventh world title as they easily downed their German opponents
Even an earthquake could not shake Ma Long's grip as the in-form mainlander steered China to their seventh consecutive men's World Team Championship title yesterday.
The world number two snatched two rubbers in the best-of-five final, beating Germany's top two players, Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Timo Boll, respectively as China downed their European opponents 3-1 at Yoyogi National Stadium in Tokyo.
Ovtcharov, the best ranked non-Chinese player, won the only point for the Europeans when he defeated two-time singles world champion and 2012 Olympic gold medallist Zhang Jike 3-0 in the second rubber. It was also China's only defeat in the eight-day tournament.
The capital city was hit by an earthquake yesterday morning, measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale. The epicentre of the quake was 160 kilometres below the ocean just south of Tokyo.
"I had the best sleep last night since I arrived here. In fact I was so tired that I didn't feel a thing [from the earthquake]," said Ma, who won all his eight matches in the tournament without dropping a single game.
"I also played Boll in the final in 2010 but lost the match after leading 2-0. I have been working very hard for the last four years and I am very happy I have beaten Boll in the final this time in straight games."
Even China coach Liu Guoliang paid tribute to Ma, who was named most valuable player of the tournament. Ma was also the youngest world champion, 18, when China won a gold medal at the 2006 World Championships in Bremen.
"He is no doubt the best player in Tokyo and he remains very humble despite his impressive performances," said Liu.
Boll also said the German camp was hardly affected by the earthquake. "All of our teammates woke up this morning because our bed was shaking," he said. "We stay on the 27th floor and it's a long way down, but after 15 seconds, it [the earthquake] stopped and I continued sleeping." World number one Xu Xin, who was involved in both the semi-finals and finals, said he had to prove a point.
"This is my third world team championships but before this, I was never involved in the crucial stages," said Xu.
"But here in Tokyo, I have played both the semi-finals and final and my hard work over these past few years has paid off."
In the women's team final, hosts Japan were unable to put up stiff resistance against the all-conquering Chinese despite enthusiastic partisan support.
Li Xiaoxia, Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen easily won their games as the mainlanders scored a one-sided 3-0 victory to capture the title.