Jiang’s team firmly back in the playoff race following big win in Team Fixture 33
JOHOR BAHRU, 2 Nov 2017 – Team Persson’s hold on the top spot in the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) loosened yet a little more after losing for a third straight time to Team JJ, this time by the score of 19-12. With a round to go in the regular season, their lead over Team JJ is a mere five games ahead of the match between Team Maze and Team Rossi.
Event this late in the season, Team Fixture 33 at the T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor Bahru served up the first-ever 6-0 scoreline, which came in the match between Joo Saehyuk and Chuang Chih-Yuan, with the Taiwanese leaping up the men’s leaderboard after the result.
While Team Persson would lose this encounter, two of their players – Bernadette Szocs and Jun Mizutani – remain firmly in the hunt for places in the Grand Finals, with the latter enjoying something of a late season surge.
Match 1: Suthasini Sawettabut (THA) 1-4 Jeon Jihee (KOR) (9-11, 8-11, 8-11, 11-7, 4-2)
What looked like an even match-up between two of T2APAC’s emerging players turned out to be a one-sided win for Jeon. While both players are capable of raising their games, it was Jeon who seized the initiative, playing with the freedom missing from her play the previous day. There was a lot more inventiveness as Jeon went for her shots with a lot more belief, giving Suthasini little chance to get into rhythm. Despite a minor blip in the fourth game, Jeon was able to close out the shortened fifth, to the delight of her captain Jiang Jialiang.
Said Jeon: “Captain Jialiang spoke to me before the match and even sparred with me and opened up my mind about how to play. He also passed on some secrets. That’s really what’s behind my improvement today.”
Match 2: Mattias Karlsson (SWE) 2-3 Jeoung Youngsik (KOR) (11-7, 8-11, 7-11, 9-11, 5-2*)
Should there be an opening in next season’s roster, Jeoung should definitely be considered for a permanent slot. The 25-year-old’s cheerful good looks and carefree post-match comments have quickly made him a favourite with the fans. He has also picked up a second win in as many days, and in similar fashion. Against Karlsson, Jeoung dropped the opening game before storming back, with his backhand proving especially effective. Captain Jiang was also quick to remind his Korean player to stay with his stronger weapon with Karlsson conceding post-match that Jeoung was the better player.
Said Jeoung: “I’m very happy, yesterday-today, two wins. Tomorrow win again. Today my feeling is very good, I hope Team JJ win.”
Match 3: Bernadette Szocs (ROM) 4-1 Matilda Ekholm (SWE) (11-8, 4-11, 11-5, 11-5, 9-8)
There’s a case to be made for Szocs to be the spiritual leader of Team Persson, or at least the team’s talisman. The feisty Romanian is not shy to wear her heart on her sleeve and you know when she’s on song when she shrieks louder and louder with every point won. This was a noisy match then as Szocs recorded an emphatic win over her stoic Swede opponent, becoming stronger as the match wore on. Szocs is now back in the top four with one more match to come to decide whether or not she makes the Grand Finals in the individual competition.
Said Szocs “I’m happy to back in the Top 4 and give my team four points. I hope to get a similar result tomorrow to help Team Persson reach the Grand Finals.”
Match 4: Joo Saehyuk (KOR) 0-6 Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE) (2-11, 4-11, 5-11, 9-11, 9-11, 4-5*)
This would not be the match any fan would pick for T2APAC’s first 6-0 whitewash given Joo’s formidable chopping skills but the Korean would suffer the ignominy of being on the wrong end of the league’s biggest single-match defeat. Not that Chuang wasn’t worthy of the win as the Taiwanese was precise in his attacks and kept up his aggression through the entire 24 minutes even as the Korean’s style took its physical toll. Joo’s best chance for a point came late in the match, when he led 9-7 in the fifth set only to lose four straight points. Even the Kill Zone gave him little respite as Joo failed to close out from 3-1 up and serving.
Said Chuang: “I was very relaxed in this match and that was the key. Knowing I usually don’t fare too well against defensive backspin players, I gave myself little pressure and just focused on executing my tactics.”
Match 5: Shi Xunyao (CHN) 1-3 Liu Fei (CHN) (3-11, 8-11, 6-11, 4-2)
The head-on meeting between two of China’s bright young stars went to Liu this time but Shi showed enough flashes of brilliance to suggest she could still blossom into a world beater. For now, 2016 World Junior Champion Shi has had precious little to cheer, having not won a match since joining T2APAC in Round 4. Liu Fei, who also arrived at the same round, has fared better as her unconventional chopping style proved a foil for many of her opponents, including Shi on this occasion. Liu showed plenty of patience in her returns as she danced around the table merrily and attacked when opportunities came. A good win for the better player.
Commented Liu: “I played better than yesterday, I wasn’t as anxious. I guess I was a bit nervous before as it has been a while since we play in the T2 Cavern.”
Match 6: Jun Mizutani (JPN) 4-2 Vladimir Samsonov (BEL) (2-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9, 3-5*)
It is late in the season and finally we’re seeing the real Jun Mizutani coming to the fore. Despite dropping the opening set, the Japanese star quickly hit back to level the score by taking the second game. Then came three sets which all ended 11-9 in Mizutani’s favour but won in contrasting fashion. Game Three saw him allowing Samsonov to come back from 9-6 down before putting the Belarussian away. Game Four had Mizutani fighting back from 3-7 behind to go 9-7 up while he was always in control of Game Five. How he would have loved winning the Kill Zone set too.
Said Mizutani: “Today’s match was very important as I really want to be in the playoffs. I’m sad to lose the Kill Zone but I have to be satisfied with my performance.”
Team Captains’ quotes:
“We’re happy to losing by a small margin. It was always going to be tall order for Bernadette (Szocs) against Liu as Europeans are not used to going against defensive-style players. But the matches were very watchable today with many nice rallies.” – Team Persson captain Jorgen Persson
“I have lots of respect for Jorgen, I call him Dr P. He’s an excellent player and now a superb coach. But I’m going to need Mr Frank Ji to turn up tomorrow because we win every time he’s present.” – Team JJ captain Jiang Jialiang noting the importance of T2APAC founder and chairman Mr Frank Ji.
Quote of the day:
“I love her. I like it when a player shows improvement.” – Jiang Jialiang commending Jeon Jihee for giving his team a flying start
T2APAC Round 6 Match Day 2 Team Fixture 33: Team Persson vs Team JJ