'Greatest of all time' Ma survives Ovtcharov in seven-game men's singles semifinal

Posted at 5:41 AM, Jul 29, 2021

Entering Wednesday's semifinal, Ma Long (CHN) and Dima Ovtcharov (GER) had faced off 15 times in their men's singles careers. Ma had won all 15.

Despite being pushed to a decisive Game 7, Ma kept his perfect record against the German - and the 16th win may have been the sweetest of the bunch.

On Wednesday, Ma and Ovtcharov gave viewers the match of the tournament so far as China's Ma, who entered as the heavy favorite, blew a two-game lead but stormed back to advance to the gold medal match.

While Ma won the first two games, they didn't come easy. Game 1 went to deuce and Ma needed to save an Ovtcharov game point before winning 13-11, and Game 2 was close as well before Ma was able to pull away.

His German opponent came back to win the next two games, setting up an effective best-of-3.

The two split Games 5 and 6, with Ma winning the fifth and Ovtcharov needing to win Game 6 in order to stay alive. And Game 7 might've been the game of the Olympics.

Ma and Ovtcharov shared the first six points before Ma went on a 5-1 run. The one point he did concede, though, was a fantastic 17-second, 28-shot rally that concluded with both players feet away from the table and Ovtcharov forcing Ma into an error.

Ovtcharov clawed back into the game, saving two match points and coming within a point of making it 10-10 - but Ma was able to finish it off on the third time of asking, booking his place in the gold medal match.

With the win, Ma earns the chance to defend his gold medal from Rio 2016 against countryman and top-seed Fan Zhendong.


Ma's opponent in the gold medal match will be Fan Zhendong (CHN), who played a seven-game semifinal himself against Chinese Taipei's Lin Yun Ju. Fan is 7-21 in his career against Ma, but he's won two of the last three singles matches they've played. In a preview of the bronze medal match, Lin Yun Ju has faced Dima Ovtcharov six times and won four.

The gold medal match in women's singles will also be two Chinese players, as Chen Meng and Sun Yingsha both swept their semifinal opponents. Chen defeated Yu Mengyu (SGP) and Sun defeated Mima Ito (JPN). Chen and Sun have faced off nine times, with Chen winning five.