Szocs confirms playoff spot as Mizutani beats Ovtcharov to bolster playoff hopes
JOHOR BAHRU, 3 Nov 2017 – A tense battle between Team Rossi and Team Persson in the 2017 T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) ended with several questions remaining unanswered.
At the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios in Johor Bahru, Team Rossi needed to win by at least five sets to keep their season alive but produced a stuttering effort instead, likely a result of the immense pressure of chasing a target.
Paul Drinkhall’s 5-0 sweep of Mattias Karlsson gave Team Rossi brief hopes but the players that followed him were unable to back him up.
On Team Persson’s side, there was the pleasing news that Bernadette Szocs will feature in the playoffs for the top four women players while Jun Mizutani will hope his 4-2 result over Dima Ovtcharov is enough to take him through.
The equation is set for the final team fixture between Team Maze and Team JJ, with Team JJ will need to win a record 21 sets to make the playoffs at the expense of Team Persson or Team Maze.
In individual competition, Feng Tianwei will miss out on the playoffs if she fails to take a set off Liu Fei, while there’s plenty riding in the matches between Chuang Chih-Yuan and Chen Chien-An and between Vladimir Samsonov and Timo Boll.
Match 1: Joo Saehyuk (KOR) 3-1 Liu Dingshuo (CHN) (2-11, 11-8, 11-5, 9-6)
A day after suffering an embarrassing 6-0 whitewash by Chuang, Joo returned to face upstart Liu who started off like a house of fire. But trust the Korean veteran to play his way back as he wore down Liu’s patience with every backspin return, forcing the Chinese teenager into making errors. Experience won out in the end as Joo’s accurate returns frustrated Liu who probably enjoys playing at a faster pace. A great bounce back for Joo who looked positively exhausted at the end of the 24 minutes.
Said Joo: “I played badly yesterday in the 6-0 loss and today I put up a lot more fight and concentration. This was a good match.”
Match 2: Suthasini Sawettabut (THA) 3-2 Georgina Pota (HUN) (11-4, 7-11, 8-11, 11-10, 5-3)
She may not have made the Grand Finals in individual competition but Suthasini would be one of the players benefitting from playing in T2APAC. Her match against Pota was pleasing to watch as both players are evenly matched although Pota boasts more experience and guile. No surprise then that the Hungarian took a 2-1 lead after dropping the opening game. Suthasini came back to take the fourth set despite a late fightback from Pota and played a confident Kill Zone game to edge the tie.
Said Suthasini: “After losing yesterday, I really wanted to win this one, especially with my mother in the audience watching me. Thank you for coming to watch me, Mom.”
Match 3: Mattias Karlsson (SWE) 0-5 Paul Drinkhall (ENG) (7-11, 9-11, 10-11, 10-11, 3-5*)
Paul Drinkhall signs off his first season in T2APAC with a 5-0 sweep that displayed all the doggedness that makes him one of the league’s most entertaining players. After taking the opening set, the Englishman fought back from 7-2 behind to tie at 8-8 after a point featuring a long rally which saw him making multiple lob returns from every Karlsson smash, and winning on a topspin return which his Swedish opponent couldn’t handle. Admittedly, Drinkhall also had luck on his side – a winner off the edge of the table late in the third set, and also just nicking a tight fourth game. Victory in the Kill Zone was extra icing on the cake.
Said Drinkhall: “I had a little luck on my side and that always helps, and the crowd helped me get pumped up for the game. I just went out and enjoyed the match and managed to win the close sets which made all the difference.”
Match 4: Shi Xunyao (CHN) 3-2 Elizabeta Samara (ROM) (11-7, 11-5, 10-11, 4-11, 5-4*)
This has been a long learning curve for Shi but the 2016 World Junior Champion would record her very first T2APAC win in her final regular season outing, but only just. After taking the first two sets comfortably, Shi found a combative Samara harder to handle in the third game and was edged on a sudden death point. Then came the familiar lost look on the Chinese player’s face as she dropped the fourth as doubts crept in. Credit to the teenager, she regained her composure to win the final Kill Zone point off Samara’s serve although as a whole, Shi remains very much a work in progress.
Said Shi: “I think I did alright in this match having had many losses in the previous matches. So, the win was ok.”
Match 5: Jun Mizutani (JPN) 4-2 Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) (11-5, 7-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-5, 4-10)
A crucial tie with Ovtcharov already confirmed for the individual playoffs yet wanting to win big to help Team Rossi into the Grand Finals while Mizutani is hoping a late season surge would be enough to keep his hopes of making the final four. Nothing much to separate the players after they split the opening two sets but things took a turn in the third after Mizutani climbed back from 5-1 down to lead 8-5 and eventually win. A demoralised Dima would lose the next two games as well, as Team Rossi’s Grand Finals hopes dimmed. Taking the last game was scant consolation for Ovtcharov.
Said Mizutani: “I beat him the last time as well, so I had the confidence of doing it again. I’m expecting to be in the play-offs after this result.”
Match 6: Bernadette Szocs (ROM) 3-3 Cheng I-Ching (TPE) (11-3, 11-3, 11-4, 9-11, 2-11, 4-5*)
Only one game separated both players in the individual standings at the start of the match with Cheng needing to win this tie to boost her playoff hopes. She also needed to pull off a 6-0 win over Szocs to keep Team Rossi in the hunt. That target became moot when Szocs took the opener easily, as well as the next two. Cheng’s fightback came way too late as she edged a tense fourth game before taking an easy fifth set. The Kill Zone was a nailbiter as Szocs went 4-1 up before conceding four straight points, squandering victory in the process, with Cheng still hanging on to slender hopes of making the playoffs.
Said Szocs: “I’m really happy to keep my place in the top four with only Feng Tianwei still to play her match. But it’s more important that we beat Team Rossi as we now have a big chance to be in the Grand Final.”
Team Captains’ quotes:
“I told my team to not worry about the overall score and just concentrate on playing their own matches. The pressure was on Team Rossi to chase up on us. Bernie (Szocs) has surprised me all season and I’m happy to see Jun (Mizutani) finally step up to his star player’s role.” – Team Persson captain Jorgen Persson
“We were never in the top two positions throughout the season yet we had our chances all the way to the end. Had Samara won the Kill Zone, the tone of the match between Mizutani and Ovtcharov would’ve been different. But we didn’t take our chances and probably don’t deserve to go through.” – Team Rossi captain Jorg Rosskopf
Quote of the day:
“I love team events more than my singles but I cannot say I’m not happy about my singles competition also.” – Bernadette Szocs undecided about what she’s happier for as she looks likely to feature in both the Team and Individual events in the Grand Finals
T2APAC Round 6 Match Day 3 Team Fixture 35: Team Persson vs Team Rossi