Team Rossi still in with a chance despite 19-13 loss in the season’s penultimate fixture
JOHOR BAHRU, 2 Nov 2017 – With just one more regular season match to go in the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC), Team Maze have seized pole position following this latest victory as they lead on 248 games won and are the only team with a positive game difference (+18).
Their closest rival Team Persson have won 242 games and will meet Team Rossi (237) in their final regular season fixture with everything to play for.
Action in Team Fixture 34 at the T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor Bahru began with Rossi’s Liu Dingshuo recording a 5-0 sweep of Aleksandr Shibaev.
But Hina Hayata quickly turned things around as Team Maze won four of the next five matches with Timo Boll earning a share of the spoils in the all-German affair against Dima Ovtcharov. For the first time as well, all six matches in a single Team Fixture went to the Kill Zone.
Match 1: Aleksandr Shibaev (RUS) 0-5 Liu Dingshuo (CHN) (9-11, 6-11, 2-11, 6-11 0-5*)
Liu is certainly shaping up to be one to watch from China as this brash 19-year-old pull out all the stops to sweep Shibaev, a surprising result given the Russian is not a shabby player. Liu played with plenty of aggression and precision, never allowing his lanky opponent to settle. Apart from a close opening set, Liu was always in control, even when he was docked a point in Game 4 for time wasting or perhaps misbehaviour for waving his bat to distract his opponent after running into Shibaev’s half. Winning the Kill Zone on a deciding point was icing on the cake for the 19-year-old former World Junior Champion.
Said Liu: “I wasn’t feeling too confident before the match but am really satisfied now as I moved well and played a solid game. I certainly played a lot better than yesterday.”
Match 2: Hina Hayata (JPN) 5-1 Elizabeta Samara (ROM) (11-9, 5-11, 11-8, 11-3, 11-2, 5-0*)
Midway through the match, there was a look on Samara’s face that showed a realisation that things were not going her way and weren’t about to change. Not that the Romanian didn’t put in her full effort in this match as she fought back to level the score after dropping the first set. It was after Hayata took the third and went 8-0 up in the fourth when it became apparent the Japanese player was on a different plane. Game 5 went pretty much the same way before Hayata closed off the Kill Zone game by winning it to love.
Commented Maze on Hayata: “She’s playing with a lot more confidence now that she’s sorted out her niggles, she’s playing so fast now. She’s also improved her game some as we saw her adjusting as the match progressed. I’m very happy as it is a very important win for us.”
Match 3: Chen Chien-An (TPE) 4-1 Paul Drinkhall (ENG) (11-7, 11-9, 11-8, 11-9, 4-5*)
By now it is apparent Drinkhall’s heroics from the previous round when he won four straight matches, including two as substitute, are a distant memory. Having lost to Jeoung 4-1 the previous day, it was now Chen who beat him by the same scoreline. Chen had looked like a Grand Final contender at the start of the season but saw his campaign derailed by a series of poor results. Not in this match, though, as the Taiwanese simply stayed focused, overcoming mid-game deficits a couple of times on his way to a 4-0 lead. But for a bad serve, he could have also taken the Kill Zone and that could well cost him a place in the play-offs.
Said Chen: “I shouldn’t have made that service error in the Kill Zone and there were also points that I knew I could win but didn’t execute properly. It’s now down to the last match to see if I can make the Grand Finals.”
Match 4: Yang Haeun (KOR) 4-1 Georgina Pota (HUN) (11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 11-8, 5-2*)
She may not feature in the individual competition playoffs but Yang’s emphatic win over Pota would be important for her team in their quest to lock up a Grand Final spot. Pota’s uncompromising style makes her a tough opponent to beat but Yang what not fazed by the task at hand. The Korean got off the blocks faster and was already 2-0 up by the time Pota found her way back. Even that was shortlived for the Hungarian as Yang would hit back for the fourth set and also win the Kill Zone game emphatically.
Asked about what’s written on her palm, Yang replied: “For the match, I think about what’s the tactics I want to play and I write it on my hand as a reminder, for example how to receive.”
Match 5: Timo Boll (GER) 3-3 Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) (3-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-10, 10-11, 5-2*)
Barely two weeks have passed since these two German players fought out the World Cup final which went Ovtcharov’s way 4-2. In Johor Bahru, the two again fought out six sets, T2APAC style, and shared the spoils this time. Ovtcharov barely gave Boll a look-in in the opening game but trust the 36-year-old veteran to find his way back. Boll bided his time with clever shots and levelled the score by not allowing Ovtcharov to go for the kill. After Ovtcharov hit back to take the third, it became a game of attrition as Games 4 and 5 both went to 10-10 and were split. Ovtcharov badly wanted the Kill Zone game for his team but a poor start there meant Boll was able to put that game away easily wot wrap up a high-quality encounter.
Said Boll: “Dima was really on fire in the first set and I stalled a bit in the second and that was the key, to be close and be hunting him. It felt like a victory to be able to get a draw against the World Cup winner.”
Said Ovtcharov: “Timo played better and better as the match progressed and I could’ve adjusted better to his service. I was aiming for a better result, we really need the games for my team and sorry I did not do better.”
Match 6: Feng Tianwei (SGP) 4-1 Cheng I-Ching (TPE) (9-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-6, 3-5*)
Cheng I-Ching may be one of the season’s most improved players but found the going tough against a seasoned campaigner like Feng. A cagey start saw both players splitting the opening two sets as every point was hard fought and the score kept close. It was only in the third that Feng established her superiority over Cheng as she took that set and the next one. But the Singaporean ace would be disappointed not to have taken the Kill Zone as well, and the point to Cheng could prove invaluable to her team with just one regular season tie to go.
Said Feng: “Very happy with my performance today except for the service error during the Kill Zone. Perhaps I was a little bit too anxious to wrap up the match and could’ve kept my composure better.”
Team Captains’ quotes:
“The women really stepped up today. Hina, Yang and Feng brought us back in after the poor start and it wasn’t easy for them. We’re now in a good position but we still have one more match to go before we can celebrate making the Grand Finals.” – Team Maze skipper Michael Maze
“After such a good start from Dingshuo, we lost all the other matches except for Dima’s 3-3 draw. We had our chances and we now need a big win over Team Persson. We still believe we can do it but the team will need to put this behind them and come out strong tomorrow.” – Team Rossi captain Jorg Rosskopf
Quote of the day:
“I found a new serve and it worked a little bit. I wished I had found it in the World Cup.” – Timo Boll, reflecting on what could have been last week in the World Cup final which he lost to Dima Ovtcharov
T2APAC Round 6 Match Day 2 Team Fixture 34: Team Maze vs Team Rossi