Table tennis world No. 1 Fan Zhendong ruled out a possible dramatic ending at the ITTF men's World Cup on Sunday, beating Japanese teenage sensation Harimoto Tomokazu 4-2 to lift the trophy.
It has been the third time that Fan was crowned at the annual major tournament, which is considered as one of the top three events of table tennis world alongside the Olympic Games and World Championships.
Facing a nothing-to-lose Harimoto, the surprising winner over Olympic champion Ma Long in the semifinals earlier on Sunday, Fan was forced to play all out as the defending champion found himself on throwing away a 7-4 lead to lose the first set 11-9.
22-year-old Fan then made a short work of his 16-year-old opponent, taking the second set on 11-4, but found it far from easy as Harimoto pulled one set back 11-6 in the third set.
Fan thus played more long-driven attacks in the following sets and won three sets in a row, 11-8, 11-2, 11-7 to wrap up the victory.
"It has been quite different from my first World Cup victory," Fan, who won the 2016 and 2018 World Cup before Sunday's triumph, told a post-match press conference.
"I realized that the situation has changed in the past three years. I'm no longer the surprise figure to the world's veteran players but the one to target on for the younger generation.
"With more eyes on me, I must be humble, be focused and play more impressive table tennis," he added.
At the award ceremony, the Chinese table tennis association President Liu Guoliang handed to Fan the gold medal and told him "to do the same next year", referring to the perspective of Fan winning the gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
"I'm very thankful to President Liu, my former head coach for life guidance as always," Fan said. "I thank him for having faith in me and that's my expectation too for next year."
"I know better, however, that I have to be more focused on what happens at the right moment and be more specific on the details of every match and training session ahead of the Olympic Games," he added.
Earlier on Sunday evening, the Chinese captain Ma Long lost to World Cup debutant Lin Yun-Ju of Chinese Taipei to finish fourth at the annual top-class tournament.