Time delay penalties play their part as players and teams feel the pressure in the race for places in the Grand Finals
JOHOR BAHRU, 1 Nov 2017 – It is the final round of the regular season in the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) and with places at stake for the Grand Finals in December, things could not unfolded more unpredictably than in Team Fixture 31.
At the T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor Bahru, Team Persson jumped to a handy lead against Team Maze, thanks to wins by Jun Mizutani and Bernadette Szocs.
But after Aleksandr Shibaev despatched Mattias Karlsson, even after a red card distraction, the momentum had swung Team Maze’s way until another red card, this time to Feng Tianwei, proved crucial in the final reckoning.
In the end, Team Persson still needed their Korean veteran Joo Saehyuk to pull off a rare win over Timo Boll to earn an honourable draw.
Match 1: Shi Xunyao (CHN) 2-3 Hina Hayata (JPN) (6-11, 10-11, 11-5, 11-2, 2-6)
It hasn’t been a great campaign for 2016 World Junior Champion Shi in T2APAC as the teenager has yet to record a win after two rounds. Against Hayata, Shi started slow but soon warmed up to the task, although by then she was two sets down. But the manner which she won the next two games to level proceeding suggest her maiden victory should not be too far away, especially when she learns to cope with the league’s 24-minute clock.
Said Chen: “I was aiming to make it a clean sweep and got a bit hasty in the final set. I served well today and he struggled with his returns. That worked well with my attacking approach, hence I was able to assert my dominance.”
Match 2: Jun Mizutani (JPN) 5-1 Chen Chien-An (TPE) (11-7, 11-10, 11-3, 11-3, 11-6, 3-4)
The big puzzle of T2APAC thus far has been why there isn’t a single Asian player in the top four playoff spots, with Mizutani surely good enough to be among them. Truth to be told, the Japanese ace hasn’t been consistent enough, showing fragility and lack of concentration at times. Against Chen, fans saw the Mizutani they had been expecting from the start: aggressive, inventive and decisive. A clean sweep wouldn’t have been out of order when Chen out of sorts and needing the time-shortened final game to steal a point.
Said Mizutani: “I want to win 6-0 but he fought for every point. In the end, I’m still happy with the 5-1 result. Games won are going to be very important this round and I’m glad to put in this performance for the fans.”
Match 3: Bernadette Szocs (ROM) 4-2 Yang Haeun (KOR) (11-6, 11-8, 11-6, 11-7, 3-11, 2-5*)
Szocs ensured her bid to reach the Grand Finals stay on track with this result and was worthy of the 4-0 lead that she established, varying her pace and pouncing with menace whenever the opportunity arose. Yang finally found her footing in the fifth game which Szocs played through hastily, perhaps mindful of the opportunity to put in an extra Kill Zone set. That gamble didn’t pay off as Yang came back from 2-0 down to win the next five points for the set.
Commented Szocs: “I played really well to go 4-0 up, and it wasn’t surprising as I’ve been on good form all season. Then Yang starting playing a bit better and got those two sets back. It would be good to get back into the top four of the standings but the team comes first.”
Match 4: Mattias Karlsson 1-4 Aleksandr Shibaev (RUS) (9-11, 5-11, 10-11, 11-5, 3-5*)
There wasn’t much Karlsson could do when Shibaev is in a groove and not even an overstretch hamstring could slow the Russian down. Shibaev looked to have suffered an injury at the end of a tight first set that he won but shrugged that off to win the next two games as well. It took a referee’s decision to slow Shibaev down as he finally paid the price for taking his time between points as referee Winnie Chay took out the very first red card in T2APAC, docking Shibaev a point at the very start of the fourth set. The Russian won the first point to erase the penalty deficit, then lost the next six points and eventually the game. He would recover his composure to win the Kill Zone game for a still handsome victory.
Said Shibaev: “This was such an important match for the team, we were down by quite a big margin so suddenly every set is worth twice or three times more. I did my best to bring the score back for our team.”
Match 5: Suthasini Sawettabut (THA) 1-4 Feng Tianwei (SGP) (10-11, 7-11, 6-11, 6-11, 5-3*)
Feng’s recent mastery of Suthasini continued as Team Maze counted on the Singapore ace to overturn their poor start. And taking over at 10-12 behind in the overall score, Feng soon made in 14-12 in her team’s favour by subduing her Thai opponent in the opener, then taking the next three comfortably. The match would take a turn with Feng 4-3 up in the Kill Zone game when referee Chin Wai Fatt decided she’s taken too long to serve and promptly flashed her a red card, thereby docking her a point. After a timeout, Feng came back to serve and lost the next two points. With that, Team Maze’s opportunity to go into the final match with a three-game advantage was suddenly back to just one.
Commented Feng: “The decision to dock me a point really affected me in the Kill Zone game, especially when the clock is already turned off, so I found the penalty a bit ridiculous. From 4-3 up and with the initiative in my favour, I ended up having to serve again a 3-3 and that cost me a clean sweep.”
Match 6: Joo Saehyuk (KOR) 3-2 Timo Boll (GER) (11-8, 3-11, 11-10, 7-11, 5-4)
The two veterans did not disappoint in the final match of this fixture with Joo content to let Boll do all the attacking while having all the confidence that he’s able to cope with his solid defence, As it turned out, Joo did better than that by taking the opener before Boll struck back to level the match. The third game would be crucial as Boll was unable to close out at 10-8 up and ended up losing. The German again fought back to take the fourth, and the fifth would be a true decider as it was 4-4 when the clock expired, and Joo then took the tie-breaking point to earn his team a draw.
Said Joo: “I’m very happy because I’ve not had a win against Timo for a long time. I think the key to winning was concentration and to keep moving.”
Team Captains’ quotes:
“The draw today is a lucky escape for us today as I was preparing myself to face defeat, especially with Feng on very good form and Joo telling me he finds it difficult to play against Timo. But as Michael Maze says, we are a lucky team.” – Team Persson captain Jorgen Persson
“I’m not satisfied with the result. We had a good chance with the last two matches to post a good win. What happened with Feng in the Kill Zone was not correct, it was a bad call from the referee. And in the last match, Timo’s been ill this past week but still put on a good show.” – Team Maze captain Michael Maze
Quote of the day:
“There’s simply too many cards and too many warnings before the players get a point deduction. It’s good that the referees are doing something now but it would’ve been better if this had happened earlier in the season.” – Jorgen Persson on the umpires docking points for time delay
T2APAC Round 6 | Match Day 1 | Team Fixture 31: Team Persson vs Team Maze