JOHOR BAHRU, 29 Jun 2017 – Coming off the high of a record 21-8 victory over Round 1 winners Team Persson, Team Maze found the going tougher against a resilient Team Rossi who were unlucky to be edged 13-12 in Team Fixture 10 at the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC).
Matches at the T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios continue to serve up plenty of surprises but none as big as the fact world number six Feng Tianwei continues to be winless after five outings, losing her latest match 3-1 to Elizabeta Samara and handing the Romanian her maiden match victory.
The unpredictable nature of this team event was clearly illustrated by how both teams traded wins, with the match score tied after four matches, and Team Maze overturning a one-game deficit with victory in the very last tie.
Match 1: Chen Chien-An (TPE) vs Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER)
Chen’s three-match winning streak came to a stop at the hands of Ovtcharov who controlled the early going and shot to a 2-0 lead after winning the first two games 11-8, 11-8. The German also got to game point first in the third game only to see Chen fighting back to close out an 11-10 win. Chen continued to struggle against Ovtcharov’s variations, and was behind 3-7 when time ran out as his opponent closed out a deserved 3-1 victory.
Said Ovtcharov: “I really wanted to go ahead for my team and try to get the lead, and we’re really very determined to get our first victory done. We have a great team spirit and I’m glad I could take three points today for my team.”
Match 2: Hina Hayata (JPN) vs Georgina Pota (HUN)
Pota would be wondering how to finish on the wrong end of a 3-1 scoreline after getting to 10-8 in the first game before losing 10-11. The Hungarian fought back to win the second game 11-5 only to hand the advantage back to Hayata by losing the third game 5-11. An uplifted Hayata was never really threatened in game four as she took a 10-4 lead before time ran out with the score at 10-6, confirming a 3-1 win for the Japanese teenager.
Said 17-year-old Hayata: “From Round 1 till now, I’m getting used to the atmosphere and the scoring system, so I think I’m improving.”
Match 3: Alexandr Shibaev (RUS) vs Paul Drinkhall (ENG)
Interesting match-up between two players who enjoyed handsome wins the previous day, with Drinkhall’s 4-0 result Chuang was a real eye-opener. However, the Englishman was unable to repeat his form from the previous day, though not for the lack of trying. Having dropped the first game 11-6, Drinkhall matched strides with Shibaev in the second game only to be edged 11-10. Drinkhall quickly seized a 7-3 in the third game, and was 8-4 ahead when his Russian opponent fought back. At 9-9, it was Shibaev who found the winning surge to close out the game 11-9 to lead 3-0. With the clock running down, it was a game of poker with Drinkhall working a 3-1 lead into an eventual 6-4 win as time expired, and a consolation point secured.
Match 4: Feng Tianwei (SGP) vs Elizabeta Samara (ROM)
Both players entered this match seeking their first T2APAC win and the fact it was Samara who broke her duck would surprise many a fan, especially as she had lost her previous four matches. But the Romanian showed she was not going to be cowed by her opponent’s superior world ranking – Feng is world number six, while Samara is 24th – as she matched the Singaporean point for point before powering through to win game one 11-9. Samara again took the lead in game two and reached game point at 10-8 before Feng fought back to level at 10-10. Serving for the sudden death point, Samara hit a forehand winner to go 2-0 up. Feng seized a 9-5 lead in the third game and worked out an 11-8 win to close the deficit. But with the clock winding down in the fourth game, mistakes crept in for Feng as Samara worked out a winning 8-6 lead to take the match 3-1.
Said Samara: “Finally my time is here and arrived, so I’m happy with my winning. I’m playing better so I hope to win my next match as well.”
Match 5: Timo Boll (GER) vs Wang Chuqin (CHN)
Wang shrugged off his tentativeness to produce a grand performance to beat a player more than twice his age, speedily taking the first game 11-8. But the 17-year-old showed his youthfulness in squandering a 10-5 lead in the second game, only to win a remarkable sudden death point with a wonderful soft-touch reflex touch after Boll’s return had hit the net on its way back to Wang’s side of the table. A fired-up Boll wasn’t going to upstaged three games in a row, as he took the third 11-5. But Wang shrugged that off to win the fourth 11-6, although his inexperience with the Kill Zone showed as he lost that shortened game 5-0 to hand Boll a consolation.
Said Wang: “I wasn’t quite familiar with the competition format and also playing in this venue when I lost my opening match yesterday but I was able to produce more of my usual game today. It also helped that my team-mates were supporting me and giving me ideas on how to overcome my opponent.”
Match 6: Yang Haeun (KOR) vs Cheng I-Ching (TPE)
It was a match that Cheng could have easily won, especially after her 11-6 win in the opening game. Leading the second game, Cheng was unable to stave off a Yang comeback with the Korean edging the second game 11-9. From 6-6 in the third game, it was Yang again who closed out the stronger as she powered through 11-8. Cheng still had her chances in the fourth game as she came from 4-1 behind to narrow the score to 4-3, but Yang wasn’t in a charitable mood with the clock ticking down as she surged again for a 6-3 win and a crucial 3-1 match result.
Team Captain’s quotes:
Michael Maze: “My players didn’t play at the top-top level as I know they are capable of but they were fighting very hard. We have good team spirit. We were behind, and today was a bit of a struggle but we came through with a close win. The day off tomorrow is nice as the players can rest and freshen up for Saturday.”
Match Day 2
Team Fixture 10: Team Maze vs Team Rossi