Players of China celebrate after winning the Men's group semifinal match against Sweden at 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Halmstad, Sweden, May 5, 2018. Team China won the match with 3-0. (Xinhua/Ye Pingfan)
HALMSTAD, Sweden, May 5 (Xinhua) -- Defeating host Sweden by 3-0 in the semifinals, defending champion China advanced to the men's final of of the 2018 World Team Table Tennis Championships here on Saturday.
The Chinese team, who seeking its 9th consecutive title, started the match with a squad featuring veterans Ma Long, Xu Xin and world No. 1 Fan Zhendong.
The Swedish team, who defeated England in quarterfinals, put Mattias Karlsson on the opening game against Chinese captain Ma. Mattias Karlsson won a critical game against then unbeaten Liam Pitchford, booked a semifinal place for his team.
After winning the first two sets 11-6 and 11-5, Ma Long, now ranked 6th in the world, faced fierce opposition from the Swedish in the third set. However, Ma prevailed with a minimal margin 13-11, snapping up the first point for China in the best of five match.
Current world No. 1 Fan Zhendong took on Kristian Karlsson in the following game. Fan won the opening set 13-11 only to see Karlsson taking the second set 11-8.
Fan then breezed past his opponent 11-3, 11-2 to give China a 2-0 lead.
Another veteran Xu Xin, who had been maintaining a stable performance so far in this tournament, beat Jon Persson 11-6, 13-11, 11-5, sending China to the final battle for the Swaythling Cup.
"We made detailed plan and preparation for this tough match, as Sweden had performed terrifically with the support of the host audience in this championships," China coach Liu Guozheng said after the match.
"Our players did well today, especially captain Ma won the important first game, giving his teammates confidence," he added.
Top seed Germany and South Korea will battle for another final ticket later on Saturday.