Englishman Paul Drinkhall the toast of the team after winning two matches, including a career first over Timo Boll
JOHOR BAHRU, 5 Oct 2017 – Having enjoyed a poor run of luck in the first half of the season, Team Rossi’s good work continued with a second straight victory in Round 5 of the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC).
This time, it was Team Maze that was despatched by a 19-11 margin, having beaten the same team 17-11 in the last round.
Fans at the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor Bahru saw Paul Drinkhall winning twice – first as a substitute for the injured Liu Dingshuo against German legend Timo Boll, then in his own stead against Aleksandr Shibaev to wrap up the tie for Team Rossi.
Cheng I-Ching and Elizabeta Samara continue to forge a strong friendship as they spurred each other to victory but Dimitrij Ovtcharov must surely thank his lucky stars that he managed somehow to edge Chen Chien-An in their encounter.
Match 1: Cheng I-Ching (TPE) 4-1 Hina Hayata (JPN) (11-4, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9, 5-1*)
The Cheng-Samara “shoulder shimmy” is going to be a regular T2APAC feature should the Taiwanese be able to keep up her good form. Victory over Hayata, more importantly the four sets won, consolidates Cheng’s position in the top four of the women’s standings. Not that it was an easy win as Hayata fought back in the second game and pulled back a set after that. But Cheng hung tough to edge the tight fourth set, breaking Hayata’s resolve before taking the Kill Zone easily.
Said Cheng: “I got ahead of myself in the third game thinking I could go for the kill and that was a mistake. After that, I just added more spin to the game and created better chances for myself.”
Match 2: Paul Drinkhall (ENG)** 4-1 Timo Boll (GER) (4-11, 11-7, 11-10, 11-7, 5-3*)
With Liu failing to recover from ankle sprain, aggravated by playing the previous day, Team Maze was given the choice to name their opponent and they chose Drinkhall over Ovtcharov. What looked like a wise decision when Boll took the first set soon got turned on its head as Drinkhall fought back magnificently to win the next three games. Some of the Englishman’s returns were simply outrageous and worthy of any sports highlights reel. Even when Boll fought back in the third set, Drinkhall just kept his head down and never panicked, and he enjoyed the icing on the cake by winning the Kill Zone game as well.
Said Drinkhall: “This is a very important result for me as I’ve never beaten Timo before. Liu being injured gave me the chance and I think I played a great match. I’ve always struggled in the past against Timo, today I just played my game, relaxed, almost had nothing to lose and just went for it.”
Match 3: Georgina Pota (HUN) 1-4 Feng Tianwei (SGP) (8-11, 6-11, 7-11, 11-7, 3-5*)
Feng wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice against European players that she is expected to beat. Having laboured to a 2-2 draw with Ekholm the previous day, she looked a lot sharper against Pota and that was reflected in her taking the first three sets. The third game was telling as Pota led 7-6 only for Feng to win five straight points to take the set. Victory secured, Feng eased off and Pota pounced to take back a set.
Said Feng: “I learnt the lesson from yesterday’s draw against Ekholm when I didn’t focus on the big points and let the victory slip away. Today I played a lot better and I’m very satisfied with this win.”
Match 4: Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) 3-2 Chen Chien-An (TPE) (3-11, 11-10, 4-11, 11-10, 7-5)
Chen and his skipper Maze would be left wondering how a player can dominate the stats and still end up on the losing end of the score. Chen bossed Ovtcharov for the two sets he won and had winning positions in two of the three that he lost. Game 2 saw Chen squandering a 9-4 lead, and similarly in Game 4 he led 8-2, then 10-6 yet ended up losing both sets 11-10. The decider under time pressure was always going to be a lottery, and fortune favoured Ovtcharov this time. As the battle for playoff places intensifies, this result could be crucial.
Said Ovtcharov: “Chen dominated me all five sets and I still can’t believe how I won this one. I stayed calm and always believed my chance would come and I think he got a bit nervous in the final situations of the sets and I took advantage of that, and that’s also a skill.”
Match 5: Elizabeta Samara (ROM) 3-2 Yang Haeun (KOR) (9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-2, 3-4)
Samara took her time working out how to play Yang, and afterwards gave her Korean opponent little chance to get back, except for the truncated final set which could always go either way. The Romanian was quicker to the punch after dropping the opening game, and took the next three comfortably, playing with variation and plenty of guile as Yang struggled to keep up. But the T2APAC format meant the Korean player was able to grab back a set, although the scoreline does not quite reflect Samara’s dominance.
Commented Samara: “I’m a little bit sad to drop that last set, maybe it would’ve been different if I had the serve. But it was a nice match with nice rallies, and I played well because of my team. When I see that they’re strong, I play even stronger.”
Match 6: Paul Drinkhall (ENG) 4-1 Aleksandr Shibaev (RUS) (11-6, 11-4, 11-5, 1-11, 7-6)
Surely Drinkhall wins the Player of the Day award, had there been one, as he showed no sign of fatigue from having played and beaten Boll earlier. Against Shibaev, who had a handsome win over Chuang the previous day, Drinkhall kept things tight and continued returning the ball with accuracy while always searching for winners. It wasn’t until the Englishman was 3-0 up that he paused for breath, allowing Shibaev to run away with the fourth game. Edging the shortened fifth game was a deserved bonus for this under-rated player, who can surely rise in world rankings with greater consistency.
Said Drinkhall: “I felt my head was really good, I was pumped up but my mind was clear and I could think about tactics and I executed well, keeping the ball short and not allowing him to attack and just being aggressive all round.”
Team Captains’ quotes:
“The match order wasn’t perfect for us but this win was a big surprise. We’re not thinking about the team standings, we’ve won twice this round and now we focus on our next match and if we win again then it’s game on.” – Team Rossi captain Jorg Rosskopf
“I think in the end the four teams will have a close fight for the playoff spots. I will need all my players to fire at the same time to get the results but I also know it has been a long season for all of them.” – Team Maze skipper Michael Maze
Quote of the day:
“An omelette with some baked beans and a bowl of cereal.” – The breakfast that powered Paul Drinkhall to two massive wins over Timo Boll and Aleksandr Shibaev
Round 5 Match Day 2 – Team Fixture 27: Team Rossi vs Team Maze