China wins men’s team title for 11th straight time at table tennis worlds

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China cruised past France 3-0 to claim its 11th consecutive men’s title at the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals here on Sunday.

It was also a record-extending 23rd time that China has lifted the Swaythling Cup in history.

Team China celebrate after winning the men’s team final match between China and France at the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals Busan 2024 in Busan, South Korea, Feb. 25, 2024. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)

Facing off against France, who made the final for the first time since 1997, the trio of Fan Zhendong, Wang Chuqin and Ma Long helped China stretch its title-winning streak in the tournament.

Racing out of the starting blocks first, Wang set the tone early on with a commanding display in game one for an 11-4 win against 17-year-old penholder Felix Lebrun.

China’s Lin Gaoyuan, Fan Zhendong, Ma Long, Wang Chuqin and Liang Jingkun (from L to R) clap hands after winning the men’s team final match between China and France at the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals Busan 2024 in Busan, South Korea, Feb. 25, 2024. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)

The second-ranked Chinese paddler got the ball rolling afterward, emerging victorious 11-8, 11-3 in the next two games to get past the sixth-ranked Lebrun to put China on the scoreboard.

Fan and Alexis Lebrun, Felix’s older brother, were the next players at the table. Fan raced to an 8-4 lead in the first game, while his sportsmanlike action saw the momentum swing in his opponent’s direction.

Ma Long (3rd L) of China celebrates with teammate Liang Jingkun (1st L) after the men’s team final match between China and France at the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals Busan 2024 in Busan, South Korea, Feb. 25, 2024. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)

Initially earning one point to go up 9-4, Fan showed the umpire that it was actually an edge ball from Alexis, who instead pulled within 8-5. The French player then began to gain the upper hand and turned the tide 11-9.

But Fan was unfazed by the incident, prevailing 11-4 in the second game to restore parity. Trailing 5-10 in the third game, the world No. 1 notched three points in a row, forcing a timeout from Alexis, who steadied himself for an 11-8 victory.

Fan Zhendong of China celebrates defeating Alexis Lebrun of France during the men’s team final match between China and France at the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals Busan 2024 in Busan, South Korea, Feb. 25, 2024. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)

In a match featuring spectacular rallies time and again, Alexis appeared to gain the momentum, but Fan, in an attempt to change the tempo, came back from 5-8 down with three straight points and even saved one set point at 9-10 before emerging victorious 12-10.

With the tie level at two games apiece, Fan regained his superior position and pocketed an 11-7 win in the decisive game, moving China one point away from its title defense.

China’s coach Wang Hao (C), player Liang Jingkun (L) and Lin Gaoyuan cheer for Fan Zhendong in the match against Alexis Lebrun of France during the men’s team final match between China and France at the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals Busan 2024 in Busan, South Korea, Feb. 25, 2024. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)

France’s hope of staying in title contention rested on the shoulders of Simon Gauzy, but it was denied by Chinese veteran Ma Long, who had won all of his four encounters with Gauzy. Gauzy took the initiative with a 9-3 lead. Although Ma kept pushing hard to cut the gap, a forehand error saw the first game end 11-7 in Gauzy’s favor.

Ma regrouped from there and putting his rival firmly on the back foot to pull off an 11-2, 11-4, 11-6 comeback win.

Wang Chuqin of China hits a return to Felix Lebrun of France during the men’s team final match between China and France at the ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships Finals Busan 2024 in Busan, South Korea, Feb. 25, 2024. (Xinhua/Yang Shiyao)

South Korea and Chinese Taipei rounded out the podium.

On Saturday, China claimed the women’s team world title for the sixth straight and a record-extending 23rd time after surviving a full-set thriller to get the better of Japan.

(Source: Xinhuanet)