World Table Tennis Championships
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Five pairs from China entered the arena at 10.00am on Saturday 2nd May 2009 for the Mixed Doubles quarter-final matches at the H.I.S. World Championships in Yokohama.
One hour later the doubts were dispelled, it was a full house for China.
Zhang Jike and Mu Zi faced the Germans Christian Süss and Elke Schall whilst Zhang Chao and Yao Yan confronted very much the surprise package of the event, the Slovakians Lubomir Pistej and Eva Odorova.
Theoretically, the toughest task of all faced Hao Shuai and Chang Chenchen; they confronted the top seeds, Hong Kong’s Ko Lai Chak and Tie Yana.
The tough task was arguably that much tougher, because Ko Lai Chak and Tie Yana form what in many experts’ eyes is the ideal combination; whilst Hao Shuai and Chang Chenchen do not. The latter duo is a unit of two left handers whereas Ko Lai Chak is a left handed penholder and Tie Yana a right handed shakehands grip player, both are attacking topspin exponents and thus an ideal format is realised.
That was the theory; the reality was that Chinese pair held the aces in the crucial areas of table tennis. They were superior in the art of returning the service short, they were the more consistent of the two pairs; continually the Hong Kong duo was put under pressure, they made mistakes and they succumbed.
Hao Shuai and Chang Chenchen succeeded 11-6, 11-9, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5.
It was a tough task but the toughest task for the Chinese was for Zhang Chao and Yao Yan against Lubomir Pistej and Eva Odorova.
The Slovakians gave a superb display, full of character; the character typified in the sixth game. They were down three games to two and 4-7; they won the next four points forcing Chinese coach Qin Zhijian to call “Time Out”. It did not stem the Slovakian tide, Pistej and Odorova clinched the game and forced a decider.
A medal for Slovakia at a World Championships was one game away but it was to remain one game away.
The Chinese duo established a 9-6 lead in the seventh game, the next point went to Slovakia as Zhang Chao erred trying to execute a mighty forehand winner but that was their last mistake; they captured the next two points and a place in the final was secured.
Deservedly the Slovakians received a tremendous ovation from the appreciative Japanese crowd as they left the arena.
Zhang Chao and Yao Yan won 6-11, 13-11, 6-11, 11-5, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7.
It was a full house for China.
Earlier, Zhang Jike and Mu Zi had proved too strong for Christian Suss and Elke Schall winning 11-7, 14-12, 11-6, 11-8; whilst in the all China duel it was perhaps somewhat unfortunate for Xu Xin and Fan Ying that they drew Chinese adversaries; Li Ping and Cao Zhen were able to deal with the deft touches of Xu Xin and the heavy backspin play of Fan Ying.
I suspect few pairs from outside China could have coped against Chinese duo is such a comfortable manner.
Li Ping and Cao Zhen won in four straight games; they succeeded 11-7, 11-6, 11-8, 11-7.
photos Janos Schmidt