JOHOR BAHRU, 30 Jun 2017 – Team Persson had world number one Ding Ning to thank as they fought back from a 7-0 deficit to beat Team Maze 14-12 at the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC).
Both teams started Day 3 of Round 1 at the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios as the only unbeaten teams in the four-team, six-round league, but it was Team Persson who will be crowned champions of this opening leg after staying unbeaten.
That had looked unlikely after Jorgen Persson sent out Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut for the opening match, with rival captain Michael Maze making the wrong call at the coin toss.
Match 1: Suthasini Sawettabut (THA) vs Hina Hayata (JPN)
It’s starting to look like a steep learning curve for Thai ace Suthasini in T2APAC, as the 23-year-old suffered a second straight blowout defeat, losing Day 3’s opening fixture 4-0 to Japanese teenager Hayata. There was barely a 14-hour rest for Suthasini, who also played the final match of the previous evening against China’s Wu Yang. Hayata was in no mood to be charitable as she brushed off a slow start to take the opening game 11-8, and the following three 11-4, 11-7, 11-3. Team captains Persson and Maze were left perplexed as referee Loh Siew Nyan did not call for a Kill Zone game despite there being seven seconds left on the game clock.
Said Hayata: “I felt the pressure of being the first player out on Day 3, so I’m glad to be able to deliver four points for the team. I’m pleased also that I’m back to winning ways, and also match my 4-0 win on the opening day.”
Match 2: Mattias Karlsson (SWE) vs Chen Chien-An (TPE)
Chen served notice of bigger things to come as he continues to impress at the T2APAC. Taking on southpaw Karlsson, the Taiwanese was marginally better in the first two games, winning 11-8, 11-9, then just about held off the Swede 11-10 to go 3-0 up. Karlsson made a late charge in the match to take game four 10-7, but it was still an impressive win for Chen who wraps up his Round 1 campaign with an impressive 9-5 (+5) record.
Match 3: Ding Ning (CHN) vs Yang Haeun (KOR)
Every captain would want to be able to call on superstar Ding Ning when 7-1 behind on the match score, and Jorgen Persson did just that after his opposing captain lost the coin toss. And it wasn’t that Yang Haeun made too many mistakes, the official count had her at only 14 unforced errors to Ding’s 12. Having started her T2APAC campaign with a 2-2 draw with Cheng I-Ching, world number one Ding has now gone two straight days without dropping a game, beating Yang 11-4, 11-8, 11-5, 11-5 and 7-1 on Day 3 for a 5-0 sweep.
Said Ding: “For this competition, it’s all about using one’s personal ability to reflect the strength and spirit of the team, so I’m pleased we’ve been able to fight our way back into this match with my result.”
Match 4: Jun Mizutani (JPN) vs Timo Boll (GER)
A highly-entertaining slugfest which no one should complain had it ended in a draw. But it was Mizutani who came out on the better end of the 3-2 scoreline, having at one time looked to be running away with the match after taking the first two games 11-9, 11-6. One can never discount Boll as the German veteran fought his way into the match, winning the third and fourth games 11-5, 11-6, before being narrowly edged 5-4 in the Kill Zone game after being 3-1 up at one stage.
Said Mizutani: “What a tough match! I don’t know why I always end up playing against the strongest player from the opposing side. It was good but I was using a lot of power.”
Match 5: Bernadette Szocs (ROM) vs Feng Tianwei (SGP)
Feng came into this event as the second highest-ranked women’s player after Ding Ning, but the Singaporean has not played anything like a world number four. And against 55th ranked Szocs, Feng again looked tentative, as she has been the previous two days, and Maze later revealed she had been to see the doctor in the morning. In truth, Feng could have been 2-0 up after the first two games but it was Szocs who took both games 11-10. Feng finally found her range in the third game, winning 11-9. In the shortened game four, it was Szocs who held her nerve to win 7-5, despite being made to serve one last time with the score 6-5 in her favour and no time showing on the clock.
Said Szocs: “I’m really happy to win against her, as she is a world top five player, and to be able to contribute to the team total.”
Match 6: Joo Saehyuk (KOR) vs Alexandr Shibaev (RUS)
All to play for in the final match with Team Maze just two games behind on the overall score, and just one behind after Shibaev took a tight opening game 11-10. Joo hit back to win the next two games 11-9, 11-9, with Shibaev just failing to keep his composure during the end-games both times. The Russian was relieved to pull back a point, winning the shortened game four 4-0.
Team Captains’ quotes:
Jorgen Persson: “What a fantastic comeback, and that’s what good about this format of team competition when it’s not over until the final match. It’s a pleasure to work with Ding Ning, who is a true professional and great to coach as well, and she has shown what she brings to a team.”
Michael Maze: “Hina Hayata and Chen Chien-An played very well but the rest of the team failed to back them up. It’s a little disappointing to throw away such a good start but it’s sport. Now everybody knows how to play to this format, we can expect better action and things such as clock management to smoothen out for Round 2.”
Quote of the day:
“She has been surprising everybody, and even herself. She brings a lot of energy on the bench and also outside the bench. She has a lot of energy, this young woman.” – Team Persson captain Jorgen Persson on Bernadette Szocs, who scored a surprise 3-1 win over world number four Feng Tianwei
Match Day 3
Team Fixture 5: Team Persson vs Team Maze