Mizutani benefits from warming up with team-mate Ding Ning as Japanese subdues veteran Samsonov in the fixture’s surprise
JOHOR BAHRU, 29 Jun 2017 – For a while it looked like Team Persson would record the biggest winning margin of T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) thus far but Team JJ have Wu Yang to thank for pulling back five games to give final 17-11 a measure of respectability.
While Team Persson recorded the highest number of games won (17), their six-game winning margin could only match what Team Maze recorded against Team Rossi earlier in the day (15-9) at the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios.
Team JJ were edged 14-13 by Team Maze in their opening fixture on Wednesday, and against the formidable Team Persson captain Jiang Jialiang needed all the luck to fall his way. The former five-time world champion won the opening toss after calling red and made the bold move to send out Taiwan’s current world number 10 Chuang Chih-Yuan.
Having enjoyed a 14-9 win over Team Rossi in the opening day encounter, captain Jorgen Persson wanted to make sure his team kept their noses in front, and his selection of South Korean Joo Saehyuk gave Team Fixture 4 an intriguing start.
Match 1: Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE) vs Joo Saehyuk (KOR)
Statistically, the two players both a year apart are evenly matched, and the opening game progressed in similar fashion as Chuang and Joo traded points up to 9-9 before the South Korean produced two straight winners to seal an 11-9 win. Joo was all dominant in winning the next game 11-5, as well as a much-tighter game three 11-7. The 37-year-old chopper continued his good work, taking game four 11-8 but saw his handsome lead shaved by a 5-3 loss in the Kill Zone game, but still came away with a 4-1 victory.
Said Joo: “I didn’t expect to lead 4-0, with lots of new rules to learn for this competition. But I’m aware this situation will require quick thinking and I’m focused on doing just that.”
Match 2: Matilda Eckholm (SWE) vs Ding Ning (CHN)
Chinese superstar Ding Ning had looked somewhat puzzled after her 2-2 opening draw against Taiwan’s Cheng I-Ching yesterday, but after a 4-0 win over Matilda Eckholm on her second outing she could afford to be modest. In truth, it was Eckholm who enjoyed the hotter start and held a 9-5 lead before Ding reeled off six straight points to win 11-9. Now warmed up, Ding handily won the next game 11-4 before Eckholm mounted a comeback in the third game from 7-1 behind. Closing the gap to 7-5, the Swede saw her momentum blunted by a time-out called by Persson. Ding quickly went 10-5 in front before Eckholm again pulled back to 10-8. This time it was a mandatory break after every six points that broke Eckholm’s surge, and she would lose the next point and game 11-8. The fourth game was mostly Ding Ning, with Eckholm doing just enough to prevent an extra Kill Zone game but still losing 11-5.
Said Ding, who rated her performance 7 out of 10: “I was lucky to get this 4-0 victory as the competition format does make things rather unpredictable.”
Match 3: Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN) vs Mattias Karlsson (SWE)
Despite a mismatch in stature – Harimoto stands all of 171cm to Karlsson’s 188cm – there was really nothing between the two hyper aggressive players with the teenage Japanese tyro just nipping the tie with the truncated fifth game. That was after they shared the first four games, with Harimoto taking the opening game 11-7 before dropping the next two 10-11 and 5-11 as Karlsson gained the advantage with his crafty flicks. But Harimoto would not go away, fighting back to win game four 11-9 before also taking the shortened game five 5-2, with Karlsson serving wide to concede the winning point.
Said 14-year-old Harimoto after the narrow win: “Having lost yesterday, I was very determined to win and I’m very happy with the result. I’m very happy to be able to stay stable during the big points.”
Match 4: Jeon Ji-hee (KOR) vs Bernadette Szocs (ROM)
Jiang elected to send South Korean Jeon into the battle after his rival captain lost the coin toss, and Persson promptly responded by naming Szocs for the tie. The opening game could have gone either way with Jeon getting to 10-7 before losing four straight points to squander her advantage. A game up, Romanian Szocs rode the momentum to take the second game 11-7, leaving Jeon still with no wins to her name after being blanked 4-0 yesterday by Japan’s Hina Hayata. That drought would be broken in the next game as the 24-year-old Korean pulled away early for an 11-6 win. But the fight waned in the fourth game as a determined Szocs hit back to win 11-4 just as the clock ran out.
Said Szocs on her 3-1 win: “I was able to find my tactics early and I’m really happy to contribute three games to my team’s total. I played unbelievably good today and I hope to be able to play all my matches like this and help my team through the season.”
Match 5: Vladimir Samsonov (BEL) vs Jun Mizutani (JPN)
The match between two club-mates was expected to be close but Samsonov was a pale shadow of the player that opened proceedings for T2APAC against Timo Boll, as he dropped the opening game 11-5 in just under four minutes. The next game went in a similar fashion, with Mizutani winning 11-4. The Japanese player was clearly on fire, stoke perhaps by warming up with team-mate Ding Ning prior to taking centrestage. Samsonov found his range in the third game, grinding out to 10-10 before again losing, after sending his return long. But the Belarussian veteran would pull a game back, taking the fourth 11-5, but was unable to capitalise in the Kill Zone game which he dropped 5-2 to lose 4-1 overall.
Said Mizutani, who was pleased to win his very first Kill Zone game: “I practise a lot with Vladi at our club, but I recalled having beaten him at the Olympics last year, and just rode with that feeling during this match.
Match 6: Wu Yang (CHN) vs Suthasini Sawettabut (THA)
Heading into the final match 6-17 behind on match score and staring at the tournament’s biggest margin of defeat, Team JJ needed a big performance from Wu Yang, and the Chinese chopper responded outstandingly against Thai Suthasini. It took 10 minutes for world number 11 Wu to win the first three games (11-5, 11-6, 11-3), and the match looked like it could go to six games. Suthasini, who’s ranked 54th currently, was never really in the match, losing game four 11-5 before a few long pauses helped the clock to tick down as game five closed with a 10-5 win for Wu. The 5-0 win for Wu pulled Team JJ back to a respectable range, even as they lost the tie 17-11.
Team Captains’ quotes:
“Our players did their best but were somewhat lacking in confidence, and some have yet to find their game. And it was a little harder for our older players coping with their younger ones.”
“Yes, it’s a brilliant result. We were good yesterday but even better today. We keep trying new things but the team spirit is the key, and we’re continuing to build better communication with each other.”
Quote of the day:
“I told my team, after the match we don’t need to have a team meeting. Go rest up, have a drink, go play… it’s all good to me. You’re all professionals and know what to do, all I can do is help with a bit of knowledge from my experience.” – Team JJ captain Jiang Jialiang
Match Day 2
Team Fixture 4: Team JJ vs Team Persson