All-Asian semifinals set at ITTF men's World Cup

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Ma Long of China returns a shot during the men's singles quarterfinal match against Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany at the 2019 ITTF Men's World Cup in Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan province, Nov. 30, 2019. (Xinhua/Xue Yubin)

Asian power has been re-stated in the table tennis world as all four semifinal berths of the ITTF men's World Cup were occupied by players from the continent after the matches here on Saturday.

Top seed Fan Zhendong and his fellow Chinese Ma Long ruled out the last two European survivors from the quarterfinal clashes in the evening, while Chinese Taipei's Lin Yun-Ju ousted the South American champion Hugo Calderano.

The current world No. 1 Fan, who experienced ups and downs in the past World Tour season and just came back to winning ways lately with titles taken at the German Open and the Austrian Open, eased past the 38-year-old German Timo Boll 11-6, 11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 12-10.

He thus set up a semifinal face-off with the seventh-seed Lin Yun-Ju after the latter beat the Brazilian champion Calderano 5-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-6, 11-3.

Former world junior champion Harimoto Tomokazu of Japan, just 16, won an all-Japanese encounter to book a semifinal place, taking the victory on full sets, 11-6, 11-7, 10-12, 10-12, 12-14, 11-3, 11-8, to deny a comeback effort from his 25-year-old teammate Niwa Koki.

The world No. 5 Harimoto, whose best ranking came in last January on the third place, will vow to challenge the "Grand Slam" winner Ma Long after the Olympics, World Championships and World Cup champion claimed an unexpectedly easy win over Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

Leading 2-1 on sets against the German star, Ma, 31, avoided a late setback after trailing 9-2, managed to turn the table in the fourth set and never looked back. Ma, seeded the second for this Cup, wrapped up the match 6-11, 11-9, 11-4, 13-11, 11-3 to reach the semis.

"I'd expected a much tougher encounter with Ovtcharov since I've been in lack of regular training for the past months," said Ma.

The Chinese captain had been absent from the competitive court due to a knee injury before he played two doubles matches in the Team World Cup in Tokyo earlier this month.

Asked to evaluate his opponent Ma Long, Ovtcharov said: "He's just the top player of the world."

Both the local favorites having stumbled a little in the past year, Ma and Fan each won the singles World Cup twice. 

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