Teenagers Harimoto and Sun enjoyed contrasting fortunes as Xue’s T2APAC debut saw the rare appearance of a pen-holder
JOHOR BAHRU, 3 Aug 2017 – Jiang Jialiang debuted a new fan for Round 3 of the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) and it has worked a treat as his Team JJ picked up a second straight win, this time over Team JJ.
After Japanese teenager Tomokazu Harimoto gave his team a flying start at the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios, Jiang fanned new life into veterans Chuang Chih-Yuan and Vladimir Samsonov, the latter renewing his acquaintance with a pen-grip player as Xue Fei made his T2 APAC debut.
The Sun Yingsha juggernaut was halted by a 4-0 defeat to Cheng I-Ching but Jeon Jihee finally broke through for her first win which proved to be an important one.
Match 1: Paul Drinkhall (ENG) vs Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN)
It’s hard to remember that Harimoto turned 14 on the eve of the opening day of T2APAC as the Japanese teenager continues to impress against older opponents with his fearless style of play. The world junior champion zipped past Drinkhall to take the opening game 11-7. But it was what Harimoto did in the second and third sets that would have totally frustrated his 27-year-old opponent, as he fought back from 5-9 and 6-10 down to win both 11-10. Drinkhall wasn’t about to go away as he varied his pace to win the fourth game 11-4, but Harimoto quickly adjusted and went 8-2 up in the fifth before closing it out at 9-4 for a handsome 4-1 win.
Commented Harimoto: “I came from behind to win the second and third games, so that was a massive boost to my confidence. I failed to adjust when my opponent changed his tactics in the fourth, and managed to work things out to win the fifth game.”
Match 2: Georgina Pota (HUN) vs Matilda Ekholm (SWE)
A bittersweet result for the two close friends who actually pair up for doubles in tournaments but Pota would be wondering how she didn’t win 4-0 and had instead to scrap back for a 2-2 draw. Leading 10-8 in the opener, she would ship three straight points to lose 10-11. Holding a 9-7 advantage in the second, she would again drop four straight points to concede the set 9-11. The Hungarian would finally get it right in the third game, which she led from the start to win 11-5. The fourth game was played under time pressure, and Pota worked herself into the lead at midpoint and held on to win 10-7, with the match ending with a showy lob and smash rally.
Said Pota: “It was a tough match but I think we put on a good show. I’m a bit disappointed to have led the first two sets and lost both of them but I’m happy to be able to get two sets back.”
Match 3: Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) vs Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE)
A match between two seasoned players that proves there’s little to separate players in the world top 20 who aren’t from China. Chuang had a better start in taking the first game 11-8 and could have gone two up as Ovtcharov suffered the wobbles while leading 8-4 in the second set. The German just about managed to hold himself together to pull through 11-10, and went on a roll in the third game, winning 11-6. Wily Chuang played his way back into the match, varying the pace to win the fourth game 11-5 and regain parity, and took the match with a comfortable 5-1 win in the Kill Zone.
Said Chuang on winning the Kill Zone: “We know each other’s games well but the Kill Zone offers up the opportunity to surprise. I hung tough and followed what my captain advised, which is to align my actions with my thoughts.”
Match 4: Cheng I-Ching (TPE) vs Sun Yingsha (CHN)
Sun has been quite a revelation since joining T2APAC in Round 2 in place Wu Yang, and had only lost one of her previous four matches, then again by the narrowest 2-3 margin to compatriot Wang Manyu. But the 16-year-old finally came undone against Taiwan’s Cheng who showed greater maturity when it was needed to win four very tight sets that could have swung either way. Behind 7-8 in the first game, Cheng reeled off four straight points to win, then hung tough to shade Sun 11-10 in the second. It was nip and tuck again in the third, with Cheng finding the winning burst from 9-9 to win 11-9. Playing point for point in the final game, Cheng served as the clocked ticked down only for Sun to whiff the return to hand her a 7-5 win. For once, youthful exuberance had to play second fiddle.
Commented Cheng on her win: “I didn’t expect this result. Sun has been playing really well, losing only to Ding Ning recently, and has shown herself to be a real player of the future. My captain told me to just play and own game and do my best.”
Match 5: Xue Fei (CHN) vs Vladimir Samsonov (BEL)
Xue Fei’s belated debut to T2APAC also saw the first pen-holder to play in this league, and how the 18-year-old impressed despite losing 3-1 to the competition’s oldest player. Samsonov’s experience came to bear as he controlled the end games better, winning the first two games 11-10 and 11-8. Xue’s grip is a throwback to the olden days and although the teenager wields it with greater versatility and imagination to win the third set 11-8. Despite losing the fourth game 7-11, Xue showed better composure to win the Kill Zone 5-4 to give the losing scoreline some respectability.
Said Samsonov: “He’s so young and already such a good player, and he was playing so aggressively. The games were tight and maybe he didn’t have to play so aggressively to win the last points. I still haven’t won any Kill Zone games yet, but I’m getting closer.”
Match 6: Elizabeta Samara (ROM) vs Jeon Jihee (KOR)
Having not won on her previous seven trips to the table – five defeats and two draws – Jeon surprised even the commentators when she took the rapid-fire first game 11-5. Despite dropping the next set 8-11, Jeon again regained the initiative by taking the third game 11-6. Samara wasn’t about to go away as she held her nerve to win a tight fourth set 11-8. The Kill Zone game would decide not just the winner of the match but the overall winning team, and it was Jeon who delivered as her 5-3 win earned her a maiden win in T2APAC and also gave Team JJ a 15-13 victory.
Team Captains’ quotes:
“As I get to know my players, I’m starting to learn that they have all the general skills but it’s the little details that makes the difference. I told my players it’s important to watch the ball, but also to listen to the ball. When you listen to the ball, you are more focused and your mind and action have greater harmony.” – Team JJ captain Jiang Jialiang
“It was as nice match. For sure we are not satisfied as we had the chance for a draw but in the end Team JJ was a little bit stronger. Xue Fei made a good debut even despite telling us he was a bit nervous, and it was not easy for him to go up against the veteran Vladimiri Samsonov.” – Jorg Rosskopf on the 13-15 loss
Quote of the day:
“It’s been a while since I last played against a pen-holder. He reminded me of (former world number one) Wang Hao. There are not that many players left like him.” – Vladimir Samsonov on facing Xue Fei who plays with a now-unconventional pen-grip
T2APAC – Round 3 Match Day 2 – Team Fixture 16: Team Rossi vs Team JJ
|Team Rossi||Team JJ|
|Match 1||Paul Drinkhall (ENG)||1||Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN)||4|
|Match 2||Georgina Pota (HUN)||2||Matilda Ekholm (SWE)||2|
|Match 3||Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER)||2||Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE)||3*|
|Match 4||Cheng I-Ching (TPE)||4||Sun Yingsha (CHN)||0|
|Match 5||Xue Fei (CHN)||2||Vladimir Samsonov (BLR)||3*|
|Match 6||Elizabeta Samara (ROM)||2||Jeon Jihee (KOR)||3*|
|Overall||Team Rossi||13||Team JJ||15|
* denotes playing of Kill Zone game