Xu Xin Maintains #1 Position at Asian Championship
By TONY WANG
The table tennis Asian Championships in Yogyakarta, Indonesia culminated on September 22nd with top seed Xu Xin’s facing off against 4th seed Lin Gaoyuan in the men’s singles final. The clash proved electrifying between the veteran Chinese player Xu (age 29) and his younger compatriot Lin (age 24). Xu, commonly known as the “cloud walker,” distinguishes himself by his graceful style with the Chinese pen hold and a frequent flair for dramatic shots on the court. He has held the World #1 position for 19 cumulative months. His opponent, Lin, emerged as a promising prospect on the international stage in 2017 and has since risen to the world’s top 5. With such high-caliber participants at play, the table tennis community awaited this match with bated breath.
The match consisted of 5 sets maximum, with each set playing to 11 points. Xu started strong in the first set, relying on his signature forehand to gain an early 6-1 lead and eventually capturing the set 11-6 (all scores are Xu-Lin). Lin rallied in the second set, however, driving precise shots into the corners of the table. His consistency, coupled with several unforced errors from Xu, eventually leveled the match at one set all. With the prospect of playing out all 5 sets in the air, anticipation buzzed around the two competitors. Entering the third set, Xu imparted additional spin to several serves, allowing him to win numerous points in short order through weak returns and early errors from Lin. The cloud walker cruised on his momentum to pick up the third set 11-2; two sets to one, with Xu in the lead. Now fighting to stay in the match, Lin played valiantly, claiming an early lead of 1-3. A subsequent flurry of aggressive attacks from Xu proved successful, however, bringing the match to 7-4 while scarcely conceding any ground to Lin. The next minutes witnessed several outstanding rallies where Xu showed off multiple running topspin shots while Lin maintained a stoic defense. 10-8, championship point. After an initial exchange of slices, Xu blasted a forehand crosscourt to win the point, set, match, and tournament! The triumph and relief on his face were palpable.
This victory comes as the latest in a highly successful year for Xu Xin. After falling to 6th place in June 2018, he took 2019 by storm, reclaiming World #1 in July and holding that position ever since. Success at the Asian Championships simply reaffirms his continuing dominance on the world stage, an especially remarkable feat considering two other Chinese players (Ma Long and Fan Zhendong), both counted among the greatest in our era, are also jockeying for the #1 position. Regardless of ranking, however, the intensity and commitment of all these top players are inspiring. While we generally consider table tennis a hobby, professionals like Xu Xin invest their lives into perfecting the craft. The thrilling clash between Xu and Lin sets a lofty standard for the sport, reminding fans around the world why these athletes deserve our enduring respect and appreciation.