Korean Jeoung makes winning T2APAC debut as newly-crowned World Cup champion Ovtcharov fights off illness to earn a draw
JOHOR BAHRU, 11 Nov 2017 – Team Rossi’s hopes of making the Grand Finals of the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) suffered a setback as they went down 16-13 to Team JJ in their opening match of Round 6.
At the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor Bahru, Paul Drinkhall’s heroic winning streak was halted by Korean Jeoung Youngsik, making his debut as stand-in for Tomokazu Harimoto.
Matilda Ekholm and Elizabeta Samara earned good wins while Vladimir Samsonov showed why he still enjoys playing and beating players from China.
In the end, there was one telling statistic: five of the six matches in Team Fixture 32 went to Kill Zone, and Team JJ won all five of those sets.
Match 1: Jeoung Youngsik (KOR) 4-1 Paul Drinkhall (ENG) (4-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-7, 5-2*)
With Harimoto away chasing 2018 Youth Olympics qualification, Korean Jeoung gets the opportunity to showcase his talent and experience the exciting T2APAC style of competition. But the 25-year-old didn’t get the warmest of welcomes as Drinkhall wasn’t about to let his Asian opponent settle. Having once reached the high of seventh in the world rankings, Jeoung quickly adjusted and fought back to dominate his English opponent in style, picking up a deserved win on debut.
Said Jeoung: “Players my style are notoriously slow at the start and the 24-minute format meant I had to settle down really quickly. It’s fantastic to get my first win and I really enjoyed the fast pace of this competition.”
Match 2: Matilda Ekholm (SWE) 3-2 Georgina Pota (HUN) (7-11, 3-11, 11-10, 11-6, 5-0*)
It didn’t take long for Ekholm to gain a measure of revenge over Pota having lost to the same opponent in the Women’s World Cup the previous week. As has been evident for Ekholm, self-belief is her greatest obstacle and she is fully capable of coming to the fore. Pota’s strength is her ability play the wall against all opponents and breaking out when necessary. This match encapsulated all that both players are known for and Ekholm edged this one.
Said Ekholm “She played really good at the start and I made some easy mistakes. After that it was a total switch when she started to make those mistakes. She was a little passive in the Kill Zone game so I really went for it.”
Match 3: Vladimir Samsonov (BEL) 3-1 Liu Dingshuo (CHN) (11-7, 11-9, 8-11, 9-7)
Legend Samsonov spent some time this week with fans in Singapore and sparring with national players there as part of T2APAC’s efforts to reach out to the community. Perhaps hanging out with the younger set gave the Belarussian a boost of youthfulness as he produced a dominant display against Liu, the 2015 World Junior Champion. Samsonov did not allow Liu to settle in the first two sets and eased off a little in the third game which he dropped. But the veteran would control the clock well to win a shortened fourth for a popular victory.
Said Samsonov: “I’m very happy to have won for myself and the team and also very happy our fans enjoyed the match. This is my first meeting with Dingshuo and I think the second set was crucial at 9-9, and winning it meant I was able to push off from there.”
Match 4: Jeon Jihee (KOR) 1-4 Elizabeta Samara (ROM) (3-11, 8-11, 9-11, 8-11, 5-3*)
A superb performance by Samara not diminished by dropping the Kill Zone set. The Romanian looked sharp from the word go which, unfortunately, wasn’t the description one would use for her Korean opponent. Jeon looked distracted and unsure of herself and played in that manner. The Korean looked to hit back in the third set but could not find the breakthrough having kept the score close all the way to 9-9. The fourth game was a lost cause while the Kill Zone proved a mere saving grace for Jeon.
Commented Samara: “I lost a bit of my concentration in the Kill Zone game but I’m happy to have won four points for my team.”
Match 5: Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE) 3-3 Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) (11-10, 8-11, 11-9, 7-11, 6-11, 5-2*)
At some point it was obvious Ovtcharov was playing despite being under the weather and the German admitted later he’d been to the hospital in the morning with abdominal pain and was taking a big risk in playing. Chuang was never going to be an easy opponent as the Taiwanese proved in keeping his opponent honest. Ovtcharov’s expansive game was always going to take its physical toll but credit to the German, he came back from 2-1 down to take a very worthy 3-2 lead. The Kill Zone was always going to be a lottery and a draw was not a bad outcome.
Said Chuang: “It was a so-so performance from me. We’ve played each other many times, so I just went with the flow.”
Said Ovtcharov: “The match turned out way better than I could have imagined and I’m happy with my performance.”
Match 6: Liu Fei (CHN) 2-2 Cheng I-Ching (TPE) (9-11, 9-11, 11-7, 5-3*)
Cheng arrived for Round 6 with a bronze medal from the World Cup and seen as one of the most improved players of the season, and it showed in how she held her composure against Liu, a tricky opponent with plenty of unrealised potential. Liu’s defensive chopper style was always going to be a handful but Cheng was hardly intimidated. But dealing with unrelenting returns eventually took its physical toll as Cheng tired, allowing Liu to take the third game and eventually gain parity with the Kill Zone set.
Said Liu: “I was slow to get into the game and could well have won the first two sets. After going two sets down, I am quite happy to be able to get away with a draw.”
Team Captains’ quotes:
“I think it was not a bad day but I’m not sure if we can still fight through to the Grand Finals. We’ve not been consistent enough. But it was good to see players like Jeoung coming in and winning at the first time of asking. But we also need some of the others to have a bit more confidence in themselves.” – Team JJ captain Jiang Jialiang
“The draw between Persson and Maze didn’t do us any favours and we lost many of the close sets today, which could’ve swung things our way. Still the gap is not that big and there’s still a chance for us to make the Grand Finals.” – Team Rossi captain Jorg Rosskopf
Quote of the day:
“It’s interesting to play another generation of players from China.” – Legend Vladimir Samsonov, 41, on meeting 19-year-old Liu Dingshuo for the very first time
T2APAC Round 6 | Match Day 1 | Team Fixture 32: Team JJ vs Team Rossi