Fan Zhendong survived Yuto Muramatsu’s (JPN) fight-back, while Liu Gaoyang dominated her top-seeded opponent Doo Hoi Kem (HKG). Bronze medals went to Hugo Calderano (BRA) in the men’s competition and Lily Zhang (USA) in the women’s.
Backed by a noisy crowd at the Wutaishan Sports Centre, junior world number one Fan took the lead in a classic offence-versus-defence encounter, but Muramatsu fought back and won the next two games.
“It was very intense and difficult but what I’m satisfied with was how I reacted when the going got tough,” said FAN after the 4-2 (11-8, 9-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-4) victory. The turning point came in the fourth game when China called a timeout to stem the slide.
A teary Muramatsu said: “I reached my potential but I got nervous in the fourth game which caused the loss. It was my own mistake.”
Fan’s road to gold included a difficult quarter-final against Hong Kong’s Hung Ka Tak, which went the distance. “These two days I’ve had problems but I went all out,” he reflected.
Compatriot Liu’s triumph was more straightforward. She brushed aside Doo 4-1 (11-6, 11-5, 6-11, 11-1, 11-3) which meant she dropped just five games in seven matches. “I played well today, because I figured out all the difficulties. Conversely she was a little conservative,” Liu said.
A distraught Doo, who is ranked higher having participated in more tournaments recently, agreed. “I feel like I didn’t play well. It’s a pity. She didn’t do anything different,” she said. “Whatever strategy I prepared, as the match unfolded, it was clear I wasn’t as tough as her.”
Earlier, Zhang and Calderano claimed the first ever Olympic medals in table tennis for the USA and Brazil respectively.
Zhang, the only paddler here to have competed at the Olympic Games, upset the fifth-ranked Miyu Kato (JPN) 4-2 (10-12, 11-9, 12-10, 9-11, 11-9,11-8) despite being on the back foot most of the match.
“I think I did really well because I was able to just calm down when I was losing a few points in a row. I just kept telling myself zero-zero, and not think about the points, whether I’m up or down,” she said.
“I didn’t want to play safe. I’m pretty sure, if you watched the game, you could see me mouthing ‘zero-zero, zero-zero’.”
Calderano took a 3-0 lead before allowing Yang Heng-Wei (TPE) back into the match. The Brazilian eventually won 4-2 (11-9, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 9-11, 12-10).
“I feel very good coming from a country where table tennis is not popular,” he said. “It was hard playing against him. Even the first three games were not easy – I won by the narrowest of margins.” Calderano’s target now is to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in his home city, Rio de Janeiro.