JOHOR BAHRU, 13 Jul 2017 – Team Persson bounced back from the record 21-8 thrashing by Team Maze in Team Fixture 8 by securing a well-earned 17-12 win over Team JJ, as Round 2 of the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) continued in Johor Bahru.
Fans at the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios, as well as those following live on TV and YouTube were treated to a high quality match filled with intriguing match-ups, kicking off with a fiery all-European women’s tie between Matilda Ekholm and Bernadette Szocs.
Newly-crowned Australian Open champion Vladimir Samsonov showed his vast experience in his match against Swede Mattias Karlsson, while Korean Joo Saehyuk also dug deep in his encounter with 14-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto.
But it was the match between rising Chinese stars Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu that left the audience purring with delight.
Match 1: Matilda Ekholm (SWE) vs Bernadette Szocs (ROM)
For a second straight day, an all-European tie opened the early session, and Ekholm was tasked yet again to lead the Team JJ challenge. But if the Swede was expecting a second straight win, she soon found out Szocs is a tough nut to crack. Despite reaching game point first in a tight opening set, it was Szocs who won 11-10. Ekholm did well in the second game to come from 6-10 behind to level at 10-10, and still lost the deciding point to be 2-0 behind. No wonder a frustrated Ekholm couldn’t help showing her emotions on several occasions. Szocs completely dominated the third game to win 11-2 but couldn’t bridge the gap as Ekholm took the consolation fourth game 9-7.
Said Szocs: “I’m really happy because I beat a top player and gained three points for my team. I’m also very happy because I played really well.”
Match 2: Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE) vs Jun Mizutani (JPN)
A highly entertaining encounter with Chuang making amends for his 4-0 loss to Drinkhall the previous day by securing a 3-2 win over Mizutani. Getting off to a good start, Chuang took the first game 11-8, then got the better of the latter stages of the next two games, winning 11-9, 11-9 for a 3-0 lead. Mizutani fought back hard to avert the whitewash and won the fourth 11-7 before taking the Kill Zone game 5-3 to narrow the margin of defeat.
Said Chuang: “My form yesterday wasn’t great, so I just focused on doing things right, rather than think too much about how to beat Jun. I’ll just focus on improving my game.”
Match 3: Jeon Jihee (KOR) vs Suthasini Sawettabut (THA)
Jeon’s attempt to break through for her first T2APAC victory will have to wait another day as she went down 4-1 to Suthasini, with the Thai star proving she could improve further with consistency. Against the higher-ranked Jeon, Suthasini got off to the better start, taking the opening game 11-7. Jeon tried her hardest but could not find her rhythm, as Suthasini didn’t let off, winning the next three games 11-9, 11-7 and 11-3. The Kill Zone game gave Jeon the opportunity for damage limitation, which she won 5-3 to avert a 5-0 whitewash.
Said Suthasini: “Having lost four points yesterday, I was determined to regain that for my team. I put in a lot of practice, even at the venue before the match, and make sure I kept my energy levels high.”
Match 4: Vladimir Samsonov (BLR) vs Mattias Karlsson (SWE)
Samsonov showed his experience in making the right adjustments after losing the opening game 11-4. Varying his lengths and going after Karlsson’s weaker forehand, the Belarussian veteran came back strongly to take the next four games 11-4, 11-9, 11-5, and 10-2, giving his younger Swedish opponent little opportunity to get back in. Karlsson left to question his game as he suffered a second straight 4-1 thumping.
Said Samsonov, who was pleased to have his wife and two kids watching him play: “The last time I played against Mattias, I lost. I know I’m in good shape at the moment but it was still tough after losing the first set. I got good advice from my captain, and played more to his forehand, while he was having problems controlling the pimples.”
Match 5: Sun Yingsha (CHN) vs Wang Manyu (CHN)
An intriguing match between two of China’s brightest young stars who could go on to dominate the women’s game in the next two decades. It was the steady, understated style of Wang that won out in the end although this tight affair could have gone either direction. The dynamic Sun took the first game easily, 11-4, then saw Wang come back to take the second game 11-7. Sun came back from 0-4 and 7-10 behind in the third game, winning the tying 10-10 point with an audacious backhand slap return off Wang’s serve, then winning a classy rally for an 11-10 victory. Wang seized an early lead in the fourth game and this time did not let up as she closed it out 11-6. Game five was equally tight with Sun managing to eke out a 6-4 lead and winning 6-5 as time expired.
“Playing a team-mate is always hard, so I just focused my own game and making sure I do things right,” said Wang, who admitted to watching hand gestures and listening out to key words when getting advice from captain Jorg Persson.
Match 6: Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN) vs Joo Saehyuk (KOR)
Harimoto belied the 23-year difference with his older Korean opponent by taking the first game handily 11-6. The Japanese teen then led 8-6 in the second game before Joo used his superior experience to get back into the match, and exert his superiority as the match wore on. After winning the second game 11-9, Joo pulled away to take the third game 11-7. Game four looked like going Harimoto’s way after he went 8-5 ahead after calling a time-out, but his mistakes and Joo’s clever variations saw the game ending 11-8 in the Korean’s favour. With time running out, Joo closed out the fifth game 9-6 for a 4-1 overall win.
Said captain Persson: “Joo’s experience paid out in this match as he was able to capitalise on Harimoto’s inability to cope with returns that were lower across the net.”
Team Captains’ quotes:
Jiang Jialiang: “Our women’s players simply can’t get a win streak going despite trying their best. But what a great match between the two Chinese girls, the kind of high tempo that is simply thrilling. We’ve now won and lost a match each in Round 2, so let’s see what happens on the final day.”
Jorgen Persson, whose team lost 21-8 to Team Maze in Team Fixture 8:
“We said today is a new day with new possibilities, and I’m very proud of how the team bounced back.”
Quote of the day:
“She said to me she lost to Sun 4-0 at the Japan Open and felt before the game she had no chance. But I told her this 24-minute match is new for both players so she should go and play her heart’s out.” – Team Persson captain Jorgen Persson on his advice to Wang Manyu
Match Day 2
Team Fixture 9: Team JJ vs Team Persson