Samara and Drinkhall enjoy big wins as Ovtcharov edges Boll in all-German clash
JOHOR BAHRU, 4 Aug 2017 – Team Rossi served up the surprise of Round 3 of the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) as they handed league leaders Team Maze a 19-8 thumping, a result that could take them off the bottom of the table with Team Fixture 18 to come.
Feng Tianwei’s fans at the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios could not celebrate a fourth straight win for the Singapore star as Taiwan’s Cheng I-Ching forced a draw.
Dimitrij Ovtcharov made his illustrious compatriot Timo Boll look out-of-sorts before Elizabeta Samara, Paul Drinkhall and Georgina Pota enjoyed morale-boosting victories.
Match 1: Cheng I-Ching (TPE) vs Feng Tianwei (SGP)
No quarters given in this match between two world top ten players, with honours even in the end. Cheng controlled the latter stages of the opening set to win 11-8. With a bit of luck, the next two games could have gone Cheng’s way. But her fightback in the second game was in vain, while she could not convert reaching game-point first in the third game as Feng won both sets 11-10. With less than four minutes to play the fourth game, it was down to which player got going faster, and Cheng went 4-1 up before winning 5-3 to share the honours.
Said Feng: “I was quite wary of Cheng as she was coming off commanding win 4-0 win over Sun Yingsha yesterday, so I knew this was going to be a tough encounter where every point had to be earned.”
Match 2: Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) vs Timo Boll (GER)
In the end, the 3-2 scoreline did not reflect the dominant victory enjoyed by Ovtcharov in this all-German clash. At 28, Ovtcharov is the younger of the two, and he shot off to a 7-1 lead in the opening game, duly converted to an 11-7 win. Boll the 36-year-old veteran would hit back immediately, taking the second set 11-8. Then came the Ovtcharov show when he was virtually unplayable and made Boll look like a novice instead of a former world number one. Boll face 10-1 and 7-1 deficits in successive games as he struggled against Ovtcharov’s killer backhands, and lost both games lost 2-11 and 5-11. Ever so experienced, Boll made sure he stayed in front in the truncated fifth game to win 6-4.
Said Ovtcharov: “It’s always tough to play against a good friend and we’ve had some close matches lately. I had a good start, played very aggressively and I think I deserve the victory.”
Match 3: Elizabeta Samara (ROM) vs Hina Hayata (JPN)
The 4-0 win for Samara over Hayata would surprise most if not all of T2APAC fans, especially when the Romanian’s previous match was a defeat to Jeon Jihee. But Samara played out of her skin against Hayata, hanging tough to edge the first two sets by identical 11-10 scores. Bouyed by the lead, she pounced on Hayata’s weakness on the forehand to take the third set 11-7 then worked the clock to win the fourth game 8-7, with the luxury of an 8-4 lead.
Samara on her win: “I must say I was lucky to win the first and second sets which went to the final point but then I started to play better and better.”
Match 4: Paul Drinkhall (ENG) vs Chen Chien-An (TPE)
Drinkhall in full flow is great to watch as fans know the Englishman puts full effort into every point. Fans also cannot be faulted for favouring Chen in this tie, given the hot form the Taiwanese enjoyed in T2APAC. But as it turned out, Chen found himself outplayed from the middle of the first set onwards as Drinkhall gradually took full control and started hitting winners from every angle. Drinkhall often took advantage of Chen’s tentative backhand and quickly locked up the first four games 11-7, 11-4, 11-9 and 11-5. There was enough time to play a shortened fifth, which Chen made full use to gain a consolation point by winning 7-2.
Drinkhall on his emphatic win: “I played quite well yesterday, just didn’t manage to finish the games off when I was winning. Today mentally I was more switched on, and I made sure when I had the lead then I close the game out. I think it’s the best game I’ve played here so far and I’m very happy with my performance.”
Match 5: Georgina Pota (HUN) vs Yang Haeun (KOR)
There’s a simplicity about Pota’s game that is at once beautiful and yet deceptive. But make no mistakes, beneath the shy exterior is a fiercely competitive athlete who simply wouldn’t give up. After losing the first game 7-11, Pota found some momentum at 5-7 behind in the second set to win five straight points enroute to winning 11-8. She survived a mid-game fightback from Yang to win the third set 11-7, although the Korean would gain parity by taking the fourth 11-8. Pota took her chances in the Kill Zone game, working herself into a 4-2 lead and celebrating a well-earned victory when Yang sent her serve into the edge of the table and watched in despair as the ball looped high and wide.
Commented Pota on the win: “I can’t find the words to describe this win, it was such a tough match. This is the second time I’m playing a Kill Zone set and I’m so happy to have won this time.”
Match 6: Xue Fei (CHN) vs Aleksandr Shibaev (RUS)
The two players are separated by almost 120 places in the world rankings but it was the lower ranked Xue Fei who enjoyed an emphatic win over his Russian opponent. The 18-year-old from China is far from the finished article but has earned praise despite playing with the now unorthodox pen-grip. After surviving late-game jitters to take the opening set 11-10, Xue went on to dominate the second game, winning 11-6. He again showed greater invention to take push on to win the third game 11-8. The clean sweep beckoned but that was when Xue showed the lack of maturity as he failed to control the closing stages of the shortened fifth game which he led 4-2 at one stage only to lose 5-6 on a sudden death point. The 3-1 reverse was also Shibaev’s first defeat in T2APAC.
Team Captains’ quotes:
“What a win against the best team. We won most of the tight sets and finally had our day. Samara’s 4-0 win over Hayata was the turning point for our team but everyone played really well.” – Team Rossi captain Jorg Rosskopf
“We were not there today, it was a totally off day. When you play so many matches, it will happen. We had such a good lead but now we’ve been handed a lesson. That shows we need to be there 100 per cent all the time or we will lose.” – Michael Maze whose Team Maze will continue to lead the standings at the mid-point of the league
Quote of the day:
“Why is there a mid-season break now? We should play tomorrow, we stay here!” – Jorg Rosskopf, whose team recorded its biggest win
Round 3 -Match Day 3 Team Fixture 17: Team Rossi vs Team Maze
|Team Rossi||Team Maze|
|Match 1||Cheng I-Ching (TPE)||2||Feng Tianwei (SGP)||2|
|Match 2||Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER)||3||Timo Boll (GER)||2|
|Match 3||Elizabeta Samara (ROM)||4||Hina Hayata (JPN)||0|
|Match 4||Paul Drinkhall (ENG)||4||Chen Chien-An (TPE)||1|
|Match 5||Georgina Pota (HUN)||3||Yang Haeun (KOR)||2*|
|Match 6||Xue Fei (CHN)||3||Aleksandr Shibaev (RUS)||1|
|Overall||Team Rossi||19||Team Maze||8|
* denotes playing of Kill Zone game