Karlsson makes a winning return while Mizutani earns hard-fought draw in all-Japanese tie against Harimoto
JOHOR BAHRU, 5 Aug 2017 – A win to Team Persson brought Round 3 of the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) to a close as all four teams now head away for a six-week break.
Fans at the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor Bahru enjoyed an entertaining Team Fixture 18 as Bernadette Szocs surprised teenage Chinese star Sun Yingsha in the opening match..
Mattias Karlsson made a winning comeback after sitting out two matches due to an ankle injury while his compatriot Matilda Ekholm also tasted victory playing for Team JJ.
A thrilling all-Japanese encounter brought proceedings to a close as the match between Jun Mizutani and Tomokazu Harimoto provided a study in contrast before serving up a surprise ending.
Match 1: Bernadette Szocs (ROM) vs Sun Yingsha (CHN)
Sun started strongly by taking the opening game 11-7 but soon found she had a fight on her hands as Szocs hit back to take the second 11-8. The Chinese teenager had been beaten 4-0 by Taiwan’s Cheng in her last outing and the doubts started to creep in as Szocs stepped up the aggression and took the third game 11-6. Szocs was ahead 9-4 and 10-7 in the fourth when Sun shook off her lethargy and tummy discomfort to win 11-10 and regain parity. With time running out in the fifth game, it was Szocs who kept her head better to close out the set 6-3 for a 3-2 overall win.
Commented Szocs on blowing a big lead to drop the fourth: “As always, I get stressed when playing a Chinese player. And I didn’t raise my aggression after she took the time-out. But I made sure to play aggressively in the final set so that I could stay in front.”
Match 2: Mattias Karlsson (SWE) vs Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE)
Karlsson would be pleased to make a winning return to the table, having sat out the first two matches of this round. But the Swede still took time to get going, shipping four straight points at 9-7 up to lose the first game 11-9 to Chuang. Showing no signs of his ankle injury, Karlsson took command to win the next two sets by identical 11-7 scores, then came back from 3-7 down to win the fourth 11-9. Chuang won the Kill Zone game 5-0 but it was still an impressive 3-2 win for Karlsson.
Said Karlsson: “It’s good to be back playing rather than supporting the team from the bench. I love backhand-to-backhand duels and that’s why I edged Chuang today. I think also he didn’t raise his game as he wasn’t sure whether I was still affected by my ankle injury.”
Match 3: Wang Manyu (CHN) vs Jeon Jihee (KOR)
Wang simply had too much in her arsenal as she completed a 5-0 rout over the Korean. Her explosiveness was too much to handle for Jeon as the Chinese player quickly took the first three games 11-4, 11-3, 11-6. It was only in the fourth that Jeon started to hold her own, closing in to trail 6-7 midway through before Wang powered through to win 11-8. With the clock running down, there was still a chance for Jeon to win back a set but Wang was not in a charitable mood as she took control to win 6-3.
Commented Wang, who gave herself 8.5 out of 10 for her performance: “I executed well today, both in tactics, and controlling the tempo and aggression.”
Match 4: Joo Saehyuk (KOR) vs Vladimir Samsonov (BEL)
An entertaining match between two oldest players in T2APAC where guile counted more than speed and aggression. Samsonov got going quickly, wrapping up the first set 11-2 and overcame mid-set wobbles when 8-4 up to close off the second 11-9, the final point coming from a cheeky drop shot. At the break, Persson told his Korean player that he was simply too stressed, and Joo heeded the advice and played with greater freedom to win the third game 11-8. Joo then came back from 7-10 down to win the fourth game 11-10, sending the match to a Kill Zone decider. And it was Samsonov who hung tough to win the Kill Zone 5-3, and with it the match.
Said Samsonov, who finally broke through for his first Kill Zone win: “Actually I’m quite tired. It was such a tough match and Joo kept sending back every ball and I had to work really hard to win each point, but it was a great game.”
Match 5: Suthasini Sawettabut (THA) vs Matilda Ekholm (SWE)
Having shown flashes of temper in her previous matches, Ekholm kept great composure this time and reaped the rewards with a handy 3-1 win over Suthasini. The Swede survived mid-set jitters to win the opening game 11-8 and rode the momentum to win the second game 11-7. Suthasini fought back in the third set to force a sudden-death point but it was again Ekholm who prevailed 11-10. With not enough time to play a complete set, it was Suthasini who opened up an 8-6 lead in the fourth game. Ekholm had the opportunity to level the score at 8-apiece but a service error handed the set to her Thai opponent 9-7.
Said Ekholm: “She is a very fast player and I knew I would struggle if we play at pace, so I tried to slow down the game. This is the best match I’ve played so far in terms of my focus. I was able to refocus every time after I get angry, and I’m really proud of myself for that.”
Match 6: Jun Mizutani (JPN) vs Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN)
The encounter between Japan’s top two players served up a thriller with Mizutani needing to dig deep into his resources to come away with a draw against Harimoto who’s exactly half his age. Harimoto’s take-no-prisoners approach saw him powering to an 11-7 win in the opener. But the youthful aggression also cost him the second game, as he threw away an 8-4 lead to lose 11-9. Harimoto would power through to win the next two sets 11-4, 11-9 but Mizutani, a former teenage prodigy himself, wasn’t about to go away as he closed out the fifth game 11-5, winning six straight points to give himself the chance to tie the match with the Kill Zone game. The game would be halted at 3-3, when Harimoto whiffed a forehand shot but managed to injure his hand in the process. As he was unable to continue, the game was awarded 5-3 to Mizutani.
Team Captains’ quotes:
“Very pleased to have a full team today and a great result for us. We’re back to being second on the table, and we know it’s going to be close for the rest of the season and shows how important it is to win as many sets as you can.” – Team Persson captain Joergen Persson
“A 14-year-old should play as a 14-year-old should, and Harimoto played very well and will continue to mature as a player with competition experience. As for how the second half of the league will go, well there’s plenty more surprises ahead and that’s what’s amazing about T2APAC.” – Team JJ captain Jiang Jialiang
Quote of the day:
“It’s all down to picking out the key words, and I use my limited understanding and just tell him ‘yeah, yeah, yeah” and carry on playing.” – Wang Manyu on how she communicates with captain Joergen Persson with her limited English
T2APAC Round 3 – Match Day 4 – Team Fixture 18: Team Persson vs Team JJ
|Team Persson||Team JJ|
|Match 1||Bernadette Szocs (ROM)||3||Sun Yingsha (CHN)||2|
|Match 2||Mattias Karlsson (SWE)||3||Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE)||2*|
|Match 3||Wang Manyu (CHN)||5||Jeon Jihee (KOR)||0|
|Match 4||Joo Saehyuk (KOR)||2||Vladimir Samsonov (BEL)||3*|
|Match 5||Suthasini Sawettabut (THA)||1||Matilda Ekholm (SWE)||3|
|Match 6||Jun Mizutani (JPN)||3||Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN)||3*|
|Overall||Team Persson||17||Team JJ||13|
* denotes playing of Kill Zone game