Wuxi (China), April 14 (IANS) China's Grand Slam winner Ma Long suffered an early exit at the 2017 Asian table tennis championships, beaten 1-3 by South Korea's Jeong Sang Eun in Friday's men's singles third round.
The top-ranked Ma, who had not lost a single match in international competitions since the Rio Olympic Games, was defeated 9-11, 8-11, 11-6, 6-11 by his 27-year-old opponent here in Wuxi, reports Xinhua news agency.
"I did well prepare for this match," said the 28-year-old Ma. "But there're a lot of unforced errors from me and the best-of-five system didn't do me any favor, especially when I was down 2-0."
He also blamed a false serve mark he received when leading 3-0 in the fourth set, saying that he lost control of the game after the unexpected penalty.
"Players from South Korea are strong opponents as always. When there's a chance, they come up and seize it," Ma said.
"The actual margin between top male players are not as big as people have imagined. And comparing to the all-time leading Chinese, they have nothing to lose and nothing to fear," he added.
Jeong had been absent in recent months from the international scene and thus has no current world ranking, which, however, doesn't mean he's a nobody in the world of table tennis.
It's not the first time that Jeong posed as a real challenge to Ma, as the Chinese-born player led Ma 9-6 in the decider before losing five points in a row to commit a 3-4 defeat on their one and only previous meeting at the 2011 Dubai Open.
He's born in Northeast China's Jilin province in 1990, started to play table tennis at six, and moved to South Korea in 2006 together with his family before crowned at the world junior championships just one year later.
"I had more chances to attack today," said Jeong. "The last time I lost and it was frustrating. Today I had some luck but I was mentally calm and stable.
"After I won the first game I think Ma Long was a bit nervous; then at two-nil I think he was even more nervous. In the next game I lost a little focus but I came back," he added.
Jeong will face Jiang Tianyi of Hong Kong, China in the round of 16 after the latter ousted the No. 11 seed Chen Chien-An from Chinese Taipei 11-9, 11-9, 12-14, 11-8.