World number one Wang Chuqin seals a historic treble at the Saudi Smash. SAUDI SMASH

The world's top player delivered a masterclass in the singles final. He staged a comeback against Patrick Franziska to win 4-2 and added the singles title to his doubles and mixed doubles crowns. The tournament was the first professional table tennis event to be held in Saudi Arabia.

Wang Chuqin showed at the Saudi Smash that he is one of the best table tennis players in the world today. He already was, but if anyone doubted it, he put in the work and it paid off perfectly. He raced into a 3-0 lead, but Patrick Franziska's strong performance at the King Abdullah Sports City, winning two games in a row, suggested an upset was in play. However, he couldn't overcome the world number one and eventually lost 4-2.

On the women's side, Chen Meng claimed her second Saudi Smash title with a 4-2 win over top seed Sun Yingsha. She is a contender for anything, given her level and form. The event in Saudi Arabia was a test and a trial run for the Paris 2024 Olympics in just two months' time.

"Saudi Arabia put on a fantastic event," said ITTF CEO Stephen Dainton. The Saudi Smash was the first ever professional table tennis event to be held in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It culminated last Saturday after a seven-day tournament that brought together 256 participants. Jeddah was witness to top level competition. Ranking points, prizes and a clear rivalry between the best of the best were all part of what was at stake in the first ever professional attempt in the country.

Wang Chuqin in full swing at the Saudi Smash. SAUDI SMASH
Wang Chuqin in full swing at the Saudi Smash. SAUDI SMASH

Wang Chuqin's performance was nothing short of spectacular. He sealed a historic treble at the Saudi Smash by beating Patrick Franziska 4-2 in the singles. "It was a spectacular final and a tough match. I was leading after the first three games. However, Patrick turned it around in the fourth game. He produced some killer shots, his accuracy got better and his overall game was more aggressive. In the sixth game, I learned some lessons from the previous two games. I was able to stay composed and counter some of the big shots he made and threatened to hit. That was the key to winning today," he said.

It's not easy being number one, it was possible to seal the treble. Adding to the intrigue was the fact that Wang's stellar performance coincided with his 24th birthday. Wang added: "I could have taken all three titles at the last Grand Smash, but it wasn't meant to be. Thanks to the birthday blessing, I can win them this time, which I'm happy about. It might seem that some of these titles were easier than others I've won from the fans' point of view. However, in reality, the whole journey of the Saudi Smash has been a long and hard one for me."

On the other side was Franziska, who lost to the champion in the final. He felt that his positive campaign at the Saudi Smash was a good one. He finished in the top 10 for the first time in his career. Reaching the final was an achievement for him, and there was a moment that even made Wang suffer. The 31-year-old insisted that he's full of confidence for the upcoming events, having become the first player outside of China to reach a Grand Smash final.

Chen Meng emerged victorious in the women's category at the Saudi Smash. SAUDI SMASH
Chen Meng emerged victorious in the women's category at the Saudi Smash. SAUDI SMASH

Franziska said, "Wang was just too strong in the end - too fast. He deserved to win. Of course I'm a bit sad. But I'm also very happy to have made it to the final - I didn't expect to make it at the beginning of the tournament and I'm grateful for the support I received throughout."

Wang Chuqin's story is a remarkable one. He was crowned Junior World Champion in mixed doubles with Cheng Xingtong at the age of 14. Since then, his progress has been meteoric. In 2018, at the Youth Olympic Games in Tecnópolis, he made a memorable move. He deliberately hit the ball into the net to avoid losing a set 11-0. His opponent, Japan's Harimoto Tomokazu, returned the gesture. Wang went on to win the gold medal and the gesture will always be remembered. Harimoto was the undisputed favourite and favourite to win. To date, he is the winner of four World Championships: 2018 (teams), 2019 (men's doubles), 2021 (mixed doubles) and 2022 (teams).