Chinese legend Ma Long and world No. 1 Fan Zhendong will square off Friday morning in what should be a thrilling men's table tennis final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Ma is the reigning gold medalist, while Fan is the world's top-ranked player, and it is a rematch of the 2020 World cup final, a nail-biter won by Fan. Ma is widely considered the best men's table tennis player of all-time, but Fan will be looking for a changing of the guard at Tokyo 2020. Both faced stiff challenges in the semifinals, with Ma defeating Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov 4-3 and Fan winning by the same score over Lin Yun-ju of Taiwan.
China will win the top four medals in Olympics 2020 singles table tennis after Chen Meng beat Sun Yingsha 4-2 in the women's final. First serve is set for 8 a.m. ET. Fan is listed as the -225 favorite at William Hill Sportsbook, while Ma is the +163 underdog. Before making any 2020 Olympics bets or table tennis predictions, make sure to check out what SportsLine Olympics expert Mike Tierney has to say.
A national sportswriter whose work appears in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, Tierney has covered nine Olympic Games in person. In the past two Olympic Games, his advice helped those who followed him cash in big, and he already has nailed a huge winner at Tokyo 2020.
Before Sunday's men's triathlon, Tierney tabbed Norway's Kristian Blummenfelt as his choice to win gold, and that bet paid off big at +600. The Olympics expert saw good value in the Norwegian, who had won twice this year and was the 2019 Grand Final champion.
At the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018, he nailed Suzanne Schulting (+2500) of the Netherlands and Norway's Havard Lorentzen (+800) to triumph in speed skating and the USA's Mikaela Shiffrin (+185) to win the giant slalom. Tierney also took the under (10.5) on the Americans' gold-medal count, and that also cashed as the USA came in with nine.
And at the Rio 2016 Summer Games, Tierney told readers to bet over on Team USA's gold medal count (41.5) and over on Team USA's overall medal count (102.5). The result? 46 golds, 121 medals and two easy cashes. Anyone who followed Tierney's advice cashed in huge.
Now, Tierney has studied this 2020 Tokyo Olympics men's table tennis final from all angles and released his pick so you can cash in on Olympics 2020. You can only see his Olympic men's table tennis final pick at SportsLine.
Why you should back Fan Zhendong
Fan comes in with supreme confidence as the winner of three straight World Cup titles. That gave him a share of the all-time record with four, and the most recent came against Ma. It was a back-and-forth match that came right down to the end, and Fan needed three match points to finish off Ma, winning 11-9 in the final game for a 4-3 victory. Fan is quickly becoming a hero in his own right, rising steadily since he joined the national team at age 16. He started playing at age 5 and was the youngest ITTF World Tour champion and World Table Tennis Champion.
Fan has won seven ITTF World Tour titles and was the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics champion. He is fearless and plays a style similar to Ma's. The 24-year-old's quick feet and powerful forehand loops keep opponents on their toes, and he will keep the 32-year-old Ma moving. Fan was much more successful than Ma at the Chinese Olympic Scrimmage in May, winning all three matches in the first leg and winning the final of the second. Ma lost in the semifinals of the first leg and was upset in the quarterfinals of the second.
Why you should back Long Ma
Ma is the current Olympic and world champion and a three-time gold medalist, and he is No. 3 in the world, according to the ITTF. "The Dragon" has held the top ranking for 64 months overall and had a run of almost three-straight years at No. 1 starting in March 2015. He crushed the field at Rio in 2016, winning every match to become the fifth male player to complete a career Grand Slam (Olympics, World Championships, World Cup). He has won a record 28 ITTF World Tour titles, and his experience and tactical mind could cause trouble for the young Fan.
He has a knack for figuring out the best ways to beat an opponent and adjusting his game. At the 2020 World Cup, Ma was trailing 3-1 against Tomokazu Harimoto in the semifinals before he called a timeout in Game 5. He changed to a high-toss serve that turned the match, and he came back to win 4-3. Ma has one of the most lethal forehands of all time, with tricky, looping shots baffling his opponents, and has added an equally effective backhand over the years. He also is a master of the chop block to create backspin and keep his opponents off balance.
How to make 2020 Tokyo Olympics men's table tennis picks
Tierney has broken down this matchup and has isolated a critical x-factor that has him jumping all over one side of the money line. Head to SportsLine now to see Tierney's 2020 Olympics picks.
So who wins the Ma vs. Fan men's table tennis final at Tokyo 2020? And what critical x-factor do you need to know about? Visit SportsLine now to get Mike Tierney's best bet, all from the renowned sportswriter who's covered nine Olympics in person and cashed big in both 2016 and '18, and find out.