Feng Tianwei enjoys welcome return to form while Timo Boll shows plenty of class after narrow win over Tomokazu Harimoto
JOHOR BAHRU, 2 Aug 2017 – The third time’s the charm for Team JJ and they finally found a way to beat Team Maze to close the first day of Round 3 at the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) in Johor Bahru.
Fans at the purpose-built T2Cavern at Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios witnessed a second straight session which ended in a 15-14 scoreline, and fans of Singapore star Feng Tianwei would be especially pleased to a return to form for the world number 6.
The match between Timo Boll and Tomokazu Harimoto was one for the ages, not just how both players performed but also how classy the German was in his post-match comments.
And the all-Korean clash to end the day would be remembered for the resilience of Jeon Jihee who simply refused to let her team be beaten.
Match 1: Chen Chien-An (TPE) vs Vladimir Samsonov (BEL)
An attractive match-up between the leading men’s player in Chen but ended up with a handsome Samsonov victory. Few would expect the final score of 4-1 in the Belarussian’s favour, after Samsonov took the opening game 11-6 but dropped the second set 7-11. Samsonov bounced back to take the third 11-6 and counted himself lucky to have edged Chen 11-10 in the fourth. Game five could have gone either way but fortune favoured Samsonov on the day.
Said Samsonov: “I’ve never played against Chen before and it was a tough match. I was quite lucky at the end of the fourth game, and the fifth was also very close at 7-7, and I had a lucky ball to win the next point. I’m really excited to be here and we have a really great project and are doing great things here.”
Match 2: Hina Hayata (JPN) vs Sun Yingsha (CHN)
The future of table tennis was on show as 16-year-old Sun faced an opponent just a year older, and it was the Chinese that got the better of her opponent this time. Sun took the opener 11-9 and her lightning reflexes were simply too much for Hayata to handle at times, though the Japanese did fight back from 2-8 behind to win the second set 11-9. Sun shrugged off the blip to produce some scintillating play in taking the next two 11-8, 11-6, then gave Hayata no chance in the Kill Zone set which she won 5-1.
Said Sun on blowing a big lead to lose the second set: “I may have taken it a little too easy after going in front, and thought the game was in the bag, and Hina lifted her play. I didn’t make the same mistake after that.”
Match 3: Aleksandr Shibaev (RUS) vs Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE)
Shibaev won where he should although his struggle with the Kill Zone returned. The Russian did not allow Chuang to get into any sort of proper rhythm, although the Taiwanese veteran managed to win the second set 11-6 having dropped the opener 7-11. Shibaev gained ascendency, producing greater variation and superior hand speed to take the third and fourth games, 11-4, 11-7. But the Kill Zone game gave Chuang the opportunity to narrow the losing margin, and Shibaev was never really in it, losing 2-5, as his overall record in the race-to-five game stands at played four, win one, lose three.
Shibaev on losing the Kill Zone game: “Yes, that was really tough as Chuang played the shortened game very well while I missed a few balls. But the overall result is good and I’m still happy to have won this tie for my team.”
Match 4: Feng Tianwei (SGP) vs Matilda Ekholm (SWE)
Feng made a welcome return to form, picking up her best result in T2APAC with a 4-1 victory over Ekholm. The scoreline does not reflect the difficulties Feng went through in the early going, winning the first game 11-9 before dropping the next 5-11. Feng’s superior skill – she is world number 6 to Ekholm’s 35 – came through in the subsequent games as she went on to dominate her Swedish opponent 11-7, 11-6 before taking the time-limited fifth game 6-2.
Commented Feng on her win: “After we split the first two games, I made the necessary adjustments and it worked well for the rest of the match. This is a good warm-up for the upcoming South-east Asian Games.”
Match 5: Timo Boll (GER) vs Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN)
Boll had to work hard for this victory and later had plenty of compliments over his Japanese opponent who is 22 years his junior. It was Harimoto who won the opener 11-6 before Boll fought back to level terms with an 11-9 win in the second game. Not awed by Boll at all, Harimoto pulled away in the latter stages of the third game to win 11-7 and forced Boll to dig deep into his well of experience as the German again fought back to take the fourth set 11-8. The fifth game was always about who gets a better start and it was Boll who got a decisive 6-4 lead before the clock ran out as Harimoto won an inconsequential final point to lose 5-6.
Said Boll: “I cannot say I deserved this victory. I had the feeling he’s controlling the game and I had some trouble with my own game. But in the end I used a little bit of the time, and my experience, and luckily I won.”
Match 6: Yang Haeun (KOR) vs Jeon Jihee (KOR)
Michael Maze could not be faulted had he expected Yang to stroll to victory over Jeon and wrap up a come-from-behind victory for his team. After all, Jeon has yet to win a match while Yang, despite sitting out the last fixture due to illness, has a far better T2APAC record. And so it proved as Yang cruised to an 11-6 win in the opening game. Jeon fought back to win the second set 11-9 but would drop the next game 7-11 as the fixture was finely poised at 14-14 going into the final game. Building an 8-5 cushion, which became 9-7, Jeon would survive a nervy final minute when Yang managed to narrow the gap to a single point before Jeon secured the final point 10-8 to come away with a 2-2 draw that felt very much like a win.
Team Captains’ quotes:
“My daughter made me this lucky fan that brought us a change of luck. Perhaps that’s why we won today.” – Team JJ captain Jiang Jialiang
“It was not our day today, we had a very bad start but the players kept fighting and getting 14 points today was not bad. I’m happy to see Feng Tianwei back on form, she’s a world class player and it was nice to see her playing with more freedom today.” – Michael Maze on the narrow loss
Quotes of the day:
“I don’t know about Taichi, I’ve never done it before. But I think I have to start learning it, probably it’s a good thing.” – Team JJ player Vladimir Samsonov on his nickname in China, The Taichi Master
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Ms Belinda Liew
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About T2 Asia-Pacific Table Tennis League:
Headquartered in Singapore and with offices in Shanghai and Chicago, the first-ever pan-regional professional table-tennis league has been assembled to engage a much broader audience and consumer base. The first of its kind, T2APAC features a ground-breaking format including separate but concurrent Men’s, Women’s, and Mixed-Team Championships, a player draft system (for the Mixed-Team Championship), 24-minute time limit per match, and a unique scoring system. All 228 matches of the inaugural season will be held entirely in the T2CAVERN, a specially-designed and purpose-built arena at Pinewood Studios in Johor, Malaysia, and before a live studio audience.