Taiwan’s Chen Chien-An singled out for praise by both captains as teams become more comfortable with unique rules governing this made-for-TV table tennis league
JOHOR BAHRU, 29 Jun 2017 – The Opening Round of the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) continued today with Team Maze and Team Rossi kicking off proceedings at the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios.
Team Rossi were keen to make amends after losing their opening fixture 14-9 to Team Persson, and captain Jorg Rosskopf promptly won the opening toss before sending out Hungarian Georgina Pota to lead the charge.
Team Maze, meanwhile, were looking to build on their opening day 14-13 victory over Team JJ, and skipper Michael Maze had little hesitation tapping on Singapore star Feng Tianwei for the opening encounter.
Match 1: Feng Tianwei (SGP) vs Georgina Pota (HUN)
Feng gets off to a fast start against Pota, looking to bounce back from her 4-0 defeat to China’s Wu Yang the previous day, and promptly took the opening two games 11-8, 11-10. But Pota again showed her resilience as she went 6-0 and 9-5 up in game three before closing it out 11-7. A shortened game four also went Pota’s way, as she won 8-4 to square the match at 2-2.
Said Pota after her match: “I was a little nervous at the start but I kept thinking I have my entire team backing me and I felt stronger after that, and just kept fighting.”
Match 2: Timo Boll (GER) vs Paul Drinkhall (ENG)
Drinkhall jumped Boll to win the first game 11-6 before the German veteran fought back to take the next three 11-9, 11-6, 10-3. Drinkhall and Team Rossi were left wondering how different things would be had the Englishman been able to close out the second game from 9-7 up for a 2-0 lead.
Match 3: Hina Hayata (JPN) vs Cheng I-Ching (TPE)
Hayata enjoyed a 4-0 win to start her T2APAC campaign but found Taiwan’s Cheng a different kettle of fish, dropping the first two games 11-7, 11-5. Despite looking a little lost at that point, 16-year-old Hayata fought back hard and was a shade unlucky to lose game three 11-10, as the players traded smashes on match point before Hayata sent one against the net and wide of the table. The Kill Zone game four was a tight affair which Hayata won 5-4 with a shriek of relief.
Commented Cheng I-Ching on her 3-1 win: “Every point matters in T2APAC, so I had to make sure to stay focused all the time.”
Match 4: Chen Chien-An (TPE) vs Shang Kun (CHN)
Team Rossi’s Shang Kun would be left wondering how he came out on the wrong end of three tight games, having led 7-5 and 10-8 in the opening game against Taiwan’s Chen Chien-An only to lose 11-10. The next two both were lost 11-9, and a shortened game four was a dispiriting 6-2 defeat. The Chinese paddler looked a shadow of the player that beat Korean Joo Saehyuk 3-1 the previous day. Team Maze established a clear lead with this 4-0 result.
Said Captain Michael Maze: “Chen controlled the tempo and controlled the match, and this is a very good result for the team.”
Match 5: Yang Haeun (KOR) vs Elizabeta Samara (ROM)
Yang overcame early nerves to record a 3-1 victory, having struggled to close out game one from a 10-6 lead before winning 11-9. Samara moved closer to the table in game two and used her reach to good effect to level the match by winning 11-9. The Romanian was four points ahead in game three and refused to be rattled by a second service fault called my referee Winnie Chay. But Yang fought back to level at 10-10 before taking the exciting final point when Samara punched wide. The South Korean was quickly ahead in game four played in the dying minutes, and was a comfortable 6-3 winner.
Match 6: Alexandr Shibaev (RUS) vs Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER)
Ovtcharov jumped quickly to a 4-0 lead before being reeled back slowly but surely by his pal and training mate Shibaev, who would go on to win 11-10. The opening game of nearly 10 minutes was the longest single game of the tournament so far. Ovtcharov won the second game 11-7 before dropping the third 11-9. With the clock showing less than 20 seconds, the referee called for a Kill Zone game which Ovtcharov took 5-2 to bring relief to Team Rossi.
Team Captains’ quotes:
Michael Maze: “Everybody was better today, everybody was more comfortable and we had very good team spirit on the bench. We start to know each other a little bit better now, we won some close matches but I’m just pleased we managed to win by such a big margin.
“Chen Chien-An’s victory over Shang Kun was a surprise to me, because you can say Shang Kun was a slight favourite but Chen played really well.
“The final game between Shibaev and Ovtcharov was a strange one, and again we saw the Kill Zone making its mark on the final score. In a race to five points, it can be quite a lottery.”
Jorg Rosskopf after a second straight defeat for Team Rossi: “We have to keep fighting and make our own luck. I will speak with my team about today’s matches and prepare to meet Team JJ tomorrow.
Quote of the day:
“I think the best player today was Chen Chien-An because he played really strong, and he was not in my team!” – Team Rossi captain Jorg Rosskopf
Match Day 2
Team Fixture 3: Team Maze vs Team Rossi