Unique 5-point Kill Zone games set to make the difference in unique made-for-TV table tennis league
ISKANDAR PUTERI (28 June 2017) – Fans could not have asked for a better start to T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2 APAC) with Team Maze narrowly edging Team JJ by 14 games to 13 after the completion of the first six matches of Session 1.
The cameras started rolling promptly at 2pm at the T2Cavern, a purpose-built arena at the Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios, with Team JJ captain Jiang Jialiang winning the coin-toss and the right to name his first player. The five-time world champion promptly called on Belarussian legend Vladimir Samsonov, which Team Maze skipped Michael Maze countered by naming German star Timo Boll.
The two veterans – Samsonov is 41, and Boll 37 – promptly served up a neat contest. Despite netting the ball to give his opponent the honour of winning the first-ever T2 APAC point, it was Boll who peeled away for an 11-8 win to take the first game in just under five minutes.
The second game featured a memorable rally which saw both player punching from two metres behind the table and ending with Boll on the floor, as Samsonov narrowed the score from 6-8 to 7-8. Despite going 7-9 behind on the next point, the Belarussian won the next four points to close the game 11-9.
Boll would hit back again to win the third game 11-8, but with five minutes left on the clock, the fourth game would go to Samsonov 9-6, according to T2 APAC rules where the player who leads when the clock runs out would be deemed the winner of the ongoing game.
Match 2 proved a disappointment for fans of Singaporean world number 4 Feng Tianwei who was named by Maze to face Wu Yang of Team JJ. Feng has never relished playing against choppers, and saw her returns blunted time and again by Wu, who was also deadly on her attack. As the 24-minute match clock ran out, it was a 4-0 victory to Wu, with game scores of 11-6, 11-6, 11-8, 6-3.
Match 3 featured Japanese tyro Tomokazu Harimoto against Russian Aleksandr Shibaev, which looked at one point to be a mismatch. Harimoto, who turned 14 on Tuesday (Jun 27), looks very much the teenager he is, against the 25-year-old Shibaev. But Harimoto was hardly awed by his towering opponent, as he fought back after losing the first game 11-8 to win the second game 11-7. Games 3 and 4 also went Shibaev’s way (11-7, 11-8), as the Russian went 3-1 in front, With 12 seconds on the clock, match referee Loh Siew Nyan called for a Kill Zone game to be played.
This unique T2 APAC innovation sees an extra game (first to 5 points) being played should a preceding game be completed within the final two minutes of the 24-minute match clock.
After a quick exchange of points, Shibaev seized control by going 4-2 up, and was on the brink of completing a 4-1 win for Team Maze. But Harimoto was not about to go away, as he smashed back-to-back winners to pull level, before Shibaev sent a return wide to lose the Kill Zone game. What had looked like a three-game win margin suddenly became a narrow 3-2 win for Team Maze.
At the midway mark, Team JJ were looking good with an 8-5 lead, but Hina Hayata’s 4-0 win over Jeon Jihee in Match 4 would swing the momentum back to Team Maze. A 3-2 win in Match 5 for Chuang Chih-Yuan over Chen Chien-An in the all-Taiwanese affair meant the match was evenly poised at 11 games apiece heading into the final match featuring Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm and South Korean Yang Haeun.
At two games apiece, Match 6 would be decided by a Kill Zone game, with Yang showing greater poise in the truncated game as she won 5-1 to complete a 3-2 match win.
Commenting after the 14-13 win over Team JJ, Team Maze captain Michael Maze said: “I’m very happy with the result.
“I think we were a little bit unlucky. We didn’t win a few tight matches but finally managed to win the Kill Zone game in the final match.
“Timo could have won 3-1 and Shibaev 4-1, and it would’ve been a different game. But it’s sport. 14-13 is a fair result, so I satisfied with the first match. But I’m convinced we will get better and better as the league progresses.”
(2pm) Team JJ vs Team Maze
Match 1: Vladimir Samsonov (Bel) 2-2 Timo Boll (Ger)
Match 2: Wu Yang (Chn) 4-0 Feng Tianwei (Sgp)
Match 3: Tomokazu Harimoto (Jpn) 2-3* Aleksandr Shibaev (Rus)
Match 4: Jeon Jihee (Kor) 0-4 Hina Hayata (Jpn)
Match 5: Chuang Chih-Yuan (Tpe) 3-2 Chen Chien-An (Tpe)
Match 6: Matilda Ekholm (Swe) 2-3* Yang Haeun (Kor)
Overall: Team JJ 13-14 Team Maze
* Kill Zone game played