Xu-perman soars into history books

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File photo of Xu Xin.

Chinese table tennis marvel Xu Xin - aka 'Xu-perman' - wears championship crowns, not capes.

On Sunday, Xu became the first player to win three ITTF World Tour titles in a row by overwhelming Ma Long's conqueror, Wang Chuqin, 4-0(11-6, 11-8, 11-4, 11-8) in the Australian Open final in Geelong.

World No 1 Xu's feat was all the more remarkable given that he had just over an hour to prepare for the match following his epic seven-game semifinal against Germany's Patrick Franziska.

"I felt like I was still wearing my championship crown from last year and I think this helped," said Xu after becoming the first player to retain a singles title Down Under, where on and off the court the 29-year-old was greeted by cheers, smiles and selfies.

"People felt happy that I came back here and I am very happy that they cheered for me. It is quite extraordinary that I could get such treatment overseas. I was enjoying it.

"You get into good shape through competing, one match after another. I did not think about winning three straight championships. I just do what I need to do, to be active and switched on."

Xu could hardly be more switched on right now. The master of the penhold grip is arguably the greatest entertainer in the modern game, with his triumph Down Under following successes in Japan and South Korea.

Xu, also known as 'The Cloudwalker', seemed superhuman during his marathon 4-3 (11-7, 5-11, 11-6, 6-11, 6-11, 11-9, 12-10) semifinal victory over Franziska - saving a match point in the final game of a contest that will go down as one of the most gripping encounters of recent times.

Prior to his narrow loss to Xu, Franziska produced a superb fightback against Sweden's Mattias Falck over seven scintillating games, and shocked China's world No 3 Fan Zhendong 4-2 in the last 16.

Franziska wasn't the only player to provide Xu with a scare. Brazil's Hugo Calderano threatened to come back from 3-0 down to take the match to the wire, before Xu eventually prevailed 4-2.

Teenager Wang beat his boyhood idol, reigning Olympic and world champion Ma in the semifinals, but Xu made his final triumph over the teenager look routine.

Wang's 4-2 (11-8, 6-11, 11-4, 8-11,11-7, 11-8) defeat of Ma was another significant milestone for the 2018 Youth Olympic champion.

Despite being pegged back twice during the match, he always looked in control of his destiny as he reached the final of a platinum World Tour tournament for the first time.

Another Olympic medal could await the youngster in Tokyo next year.

Earlier on Sunday, another Chinese teenager, Sun Yingsha, beat Olympic and world champion Ding Ning 4-0(11-1, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9) to win the third tour crown of her budding career.

The 18-year-old avenged her semifinal defeat to Ding at last week's Korea Open.

It was Ding's second straight final loss after missing out on gold in Busan to Chen Meng. Nevertheless, the 'Queen of Hearts' confirmed her status as queen of comebacks after holding her nerve to fight back from 3-2 down against Japan's Mima Ito in their absorbing semifinal (11-3, 8-11,11-4, 8-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-8).

Xu wasn't the only player rewriting the record books. South Korea's Jeoung Young-sik and Lee Sang-su became the first ever pair to defend a men's doubles title at the Australian Open, needing just under half an hour to complete a 3-0 (11-6, 11-8, 11-6) victory over China's Ma and Lin Gaoyuan in Saturday's final.

In the women's doubles, China's Chen Meng and Wang Manyu followed up their win in Korea last week by claiming a second successive title with a 3-1 (11-6, 11-3, 8-11,11-6) triumph over Koreans Jeon Ji-hee and Yang Hae-un.

The mixed doubles title went to Hong Kong duo Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem.

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