Ekholm sets Jiang’s team on the way with Chuang and Liu picking up handsome wins
JOHOR BAHRU, 21 Sept 2017 – Team Persson’s mastery over Team JJ finally came to an end at the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC).
At the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor Bahru, Team JJ finally broke through with a 16-12 result built on three key wins in Team Fixture 21.
Matilda Ekholm’s handy 3-1 win over Shi Xunyao provided the platform for Team JJ, as Chuang Chih-yuan and Liu Fei followed up with big wins over Jun Mizutani and Suthasini Sawettabut respectively.
Things looked a bit nervy in the end as Bernadette Szocs threatened to spoil Team JJ’s celebrations but Jeon Ji-hee made sure Jiang’s team would not be denied.
Match 1: Mattias Karlsson (SWE) vs Vladimir Samsonov (BEL)
Karlsson and Samsonov served up the appetiser for Match Fixture 21 with the Swede enjoying a 3-2 result over the Belarussian former world number one. Samsonov took the first set 11-9 with Karlsson fighting back to win the second 11-7. The third game was nip and tuck, with Samsonov powering through to win 11-9. Despite having entertained the spectators with long rallies, Karlsson finally decided to up the aggression on his tiring opponent, as he took the fourth game 11-3 before controlling the time-shortened firth set 4-2.
Said Karlsson on winning the fourth game easily: “I was just trying to be more aggressive and not give him too much time. It was important to be able to control the game, and I’m happy with the win.”
Match 2: Shi Xunyao (CHN) vs Matilda Ekholm (SWE)
Ekholm didn’t allow 16-year-old Shi to settle into any sort of rhythm regardless of the fearsome reputation of Chinese players. Despite being the 2016 World Junior Champion, Shi has yet to show much to convince fans that she is as bright a future star as other teenagers Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu who have also played in T2APAC. Ekholm pounced on Shi’s tentativeness to roar to a 3-0 lead, winning 11-8, 11-10 and 11-9. And it could’ve been a clean sweep if Shi did not edge the short fourth game 3-2.
Said Ekholm: “I wanted very badly to win the last point too but overall it was a very good match for me.”
Match 3: Jun Mizutani (JPN) vs Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE)
Chuang showed why he was once ranked as high as third in the world with his 5-0 mastery over 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist Mizutani, a player eight years his junior. While the scores would reflect a tight match, Chuang’s 11-7, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9, 5-4 win was based on the belief that he can control the end-game and make the final push for victory. The Kill Zone game illustrated this perfectly as Chuang fought from 4-1 down to tie the score, then scoring the winning point. It’s no wonder his captain could not stop singing his praises afterwards.
Said Chuang: “I just invested myself in every point, every rally. Even when I was behind, I just continued fighting hard and believing in myself. The third set was particularly crucial I was trailing and captain Jiang’s timely advice set me right again.”
Match 4: Suthasini Sawettabut (THA) vs Liu Fei (CHN)
Controversy on the final point which had to be replayed after the head umpire’s ruling although that did not hide the fact that Suthasini found Liu’s heavy backspin returns not to her liking. Liu’s attacking chopper style is something of a rarity in the Chinese national team, although she has shown in two T2APAC outings that she is fully capable of challenging the best. Liu took the first three sets 11-5, 11-9, 11-6, with Suthasini providing only a bit of discomfort in the second game. It was the fourth game played under time pressure that would provide a talking point, with the buzzer sounding during play with Suthasini ahead 5-4. The Thai raised her left hand on hearing the buzzer, prompting Liu to stand up and Suthasini promptly put the point away to “win” 6-4. A protest from Team JJ led to the point being replayed, which Liu won to tie the score at 5-5, then winning the sudden-death point as well to pick-up the set she had conceded earlier. A 4-0 win to Liu was not an unfair result.
Match 5: Joo Saehyuk (KOR) vs Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN)
For a second day running, young Harimoto was handed a lesson. Following a 1-4 defeat to Ovtcharov, it was a 0-5 humbling by Joo this time. Blame it on the folly of youth as the 14-year-old stuck to playing at breakneck pace, while Joo patiently controlled proceedings with his languid chopper style and pouncing when opportunities arose. 11-6, 11-9, 11-6 and 11-3 to Joo reflected what transpired at the table, and it was only in the fifth game that Harimoto was able to keep pace with his 37-year-old opponent, although he still lost 10-11.
Said Joo of the result: “Our team didn’t start well, so I was very focused on winning as many games as possible. It was great to be able to produce a 5-0 result.”
Match 6: Bernadette Szocs (ROM) vs Jeon Jihee (KOR)
Szocs edged Jeon 11-10 in a tight opening set, then took a 2-0 lead with a commanding 11-5 win in the second game, as it look as though the Romanian could help her team draw level on the overall score. That was when Jeon decided to calm her jittery captain as the Korean fought hard to win the third set 11-9, then powered to an 11-6 win in the fourth game. It was down to the Kill Zone set to settle the tie, and Szocs secured the winning 5-4 point after Jeon botched her return.
Said Szocs: “Having lost twice to Jeon at the Universiade last month, I was really happy to pick up this result over her.”
Team Captains’ quotes:
“We were up a lot yesterday and ended up winning narrowly, and we were down a lot today and ended up with a result that I can accept. And we have Joo to thank for helping us with his 5-0 win over Harimoto. I’m really pleased he’s able to show that the older players can still match it with the younger ones.” – Jorgen Persson on the 12-16 loss
“That was a bit nervy in the end when there was a possibility of the match ending in a draw, and that would’ve been quite meaningless. I really wanted this win over Team Persson and I’m glad my players delivered.” – Team JJ captain Jiang Jialiang
Quote of the day:
“I wish I’d gotten to know him earlier. He only thinks about table-tennis, that’s what fills his head 24/7. He’s not even bothered to have children, and he’s already 36!” – Jiang, branching into family planning for his player Chuang Chih-Yuan