Ovtcharov pads lead in individual standings as Cheng hands Suthasini a lesson
JOHOR BAHRU, 4 Oct 2017 – Back from a 10-day break, Round 5 of the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) got underway with the same two teams that played the final match of the previous round.
This time around, it was Team Rossi that captivated the crowd at the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor Bahru with a 20-12 result over Team Persson – the same team they had lost 10-20 to in their previous encounter.
Elizabeta Samara gave Team Rossi a positive start as Jorg Rosskopf’s team celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival by winning four of the day’s six ties, even as Paul Drinkhall fought back to a well-earned 3-3 draw with Jun Mizutani.
Match 1: Elizabeta Samara (ROM) 4-2 Bernadette Szocs (ROM) (11-7, 7-11, 11-2, 10-11, 11-7, 6-2)
Showing no sign of the strained neck that bothered her in the last round, Samara was in no mood to be charitable to her national team-mate Szocs, who’s fighting to reach the final four of the women’s individual competition. After splitting the first two sets, it was Samara who proved more resilient than her younger countrywoman, taking the next three out of four games.
Said Samara: “It’s always hard to play your team-mate and friend but I played much better today than in the last round. Perhaps she’s a bit nervous as she’s competing for a top four slot now, and I still hope she makes it into the playoffs.”
Match 2: Liu Dingshuo (CHN) 1-4 Mattias Karlsson (SWE) (11-9, 6-11, 3-11, 9-11, 4-5*)
Liu put up a magnificent fight despite an ankle injury hampering his usual explosiveness. The 19-year-old former World Junior Champions had twisted his ankle in training on Monday but insisted on taking his place in the line-up. While clearly not moving as freely as he would like to, Liu managed to take the first set before Karlsson asserted control. It was still a hard-fought win for the Swede, whose margin of victory was embellished by edging the Kill Zone set 5-4.
Commented Karlsson on Liu’s injury: “I heard about it yesterday and I think it affected him as he wasn’t moving so well.”
Match 3: Cheng I-Ching (TPE) 5-0 Suthasini Sawettabut (THA) (11-6, 11-8, 11-8, 11-1, 5-4)
Normally not the most expressive of players, even Cheng could not resist exchanging shoulder shimmies with team-mate Samara following the day’s more emphatic victory. She found her stride early and took advantage of her Thai opponent on every front, and it was not until the third game that Suthasini caught up. Even then, the Thai could not find her way past the world Top 10-ranked Taiwanese player.
Said Cheng: “I got into the rhythm of the match really quickly and played very well.”
Match 4: Paul Drinkhall (ENG) 3-3 Jun Mizutani (JPN) (10-11, 11-5, 4-11, 11-4, 5-11, 4-3)
This match provided the perfect illustration of Mizutani’s struggles in T2APAC. The Japanese Rio Olympic bronze medallist could reasonably be expected to challenge for the top four playoff spots but instead finds himself off the pace with just 5 regular season matches to play. Leading 8-1 in the opening set, Mizutani’s focus wavered enough for Drinkhall to fight back to a 10-9 lead before the Japanese won through. Drinkhall would take the ne11-5xt game 11-5, and the pattern repeated for the next two games where Mizutani won handily before losing just as easily. Even after Mizutani won the fifth set, there was a sense the job wasn’t done and so it proved as Drinkhall stormed to a 4-1 lead in the shortened final game before working the clock to his favour for a win, and an honourable draw.
Said Drinkhall: “I think Jun was definitely the better player today, I just felt like he was in control and I was making more mistakes than him. But I had a bit of luck on my side, I just kept fighting and managed to pick up three points for myself and my team.”
Match 5: Georgina Pota (HUN) 3-2 Shi Xunyao (CHN) (11-7, 2-11, 9-11, 11-6, 7-1)
Shi’s dedication to her craft was exemplified by the fact she set up her own camera on a tripod to record her match against Pota, a player twice her age. And the 16-year-old Chinese player would certainly appreciate that she was eventually beaten by experience, and her day would come if she kept working on her game. Despite leading 2-1, Shi’s fragile game was slowly picked apart by her Hungarian opponent who didn’t give her a chance in the tie-breaker.
Said Pota, who almost missed her flight to Malaysia after playing in the European circuit: “It was a two-hour delay in Berlin and I almost missed my connecting flight to Malaysia but I’m here and that’s what’s most important.”
Match 6: Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) 4-1 Joo Saehyuk (KOR) (11-7, 11-8, 11-10, 6-11, 5-2*)
Ovtcharov padded his lead at the top of the men’s individual table with this fighting win over his wily Korean opponent. The German knew he had to use his physicality to subdue the veteran chopper, relying on heavy smashes to assert control in the opening two sets. The third game would prove pivotal as Joo found his way back against the tiring German whose forehand returns started to wobble. But Ovtcharov just had enough to eke out a one-point win, and seize a 3-0 lead that ultimately proved decisive. Chalk one up for youth in this one.
Said Ovtcharov: “Joo is a very smart player and he gets stronger and stronger with every set. And if he could catch that third set, he could have found his way back into the match.”
Team Captains’ quotes:
“The match order worked well for us today, we were quite confident of picking up the points. It’s a strong performance from all of our team and we keep on fighting. Maybe the secret to winning is eating mooncake.” – Team Rossi captain Jorg Rosskopf
“It’s quite a reversal and that’s how this system works. It was very difficult today and we only won the one match with Mattias (Karlsson). That last match between Dima and Joo was very high quality.” – Team Persson captain Jorgen Persson
Quote of the day:
“Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to all the fans at home, wishing all of you good health and a happy reunion.” – Cheng I-Ching sending her Mooncake Festival message
Round 5 – Match Day 1Team Fixture 25: Team Rossi vs Team Persson
* denotes playing of Kill Zone game