Table Tennis Tidbits #8 By Robert Ho

By Robert Ho | Sept. 12, 2017, 10:47 a.m. (ET)

                                       Kristian Karlsson Sweden Table Tennis

TABLE TENNIS TIDBITS # 8  By Robert Ho  11-18-15

 

Honorable Mention for A Swede at the 2015 Swedish Open


Although the number of spectators in the stands seemed sparse, the matches were rich with features of significance for table tennis enthusiasts.

The men’s final featured 18 year old Fan Zhen Dong of China, #2 in the world against teammate and #3 in the world Xu Xin.  Every time I watch Xu compete, I have this impression he is having to suppress an inclination to have fun trying something unusual or creative which, however, may interfere with the effort to win.  Because he is so fleet of foot, he seems inclined to use his forehand in many situations where the backhand would be more prudent for winning the point.  He is very good at lobbing;  whereas that is a default tactic for most players at his level, he may use it when there is no “need” to and lose the point as a result.  His forehand inside-out chop from his extreme forehand side of the table is another gratuitous stroke he may use to stay in a point when he could be more aggressive and threatening.  Against aggressively serious and consistent Fan that is courting disaster.  Fan wins the match 4-2 and the Swedish Open Men’s title.

In one of the men’s semis the host country’s Kristian Karlsson faced Xu Xin in a contest of  lefties except it was no contest for Xu who won 4-0.  Karlsson said he didn’t expect to reach the semis so the loss was tolerable.  In the other semi, Liang Jing Kun an 18 year old who resembles his compatriot Fan Zhen Dong, with a similar physique and game is not (yet?) Fan’s equal in performance, so loses the match 1-4.

A men’s quarterfinal with a special lesson in tactics: Liang Jing Kun vs Marcos Freitas of Portugal, a lefty.   Liang wins the first game 16-14, but Freitas wins the next 3 and Liang is in danger of being ousted from the tournament.  But Liang wins the next 3 using an obvious tactic against which Freitas seems unable to cope:  Liang directs most of his returns to Freitas’ backhand; only occasionally to the forehand.  Surprisingly Freitas repetitively returns long, into the net, or “sets it up” when the ball goes to his backhand and loses many points and the match 3-4!  Liang had lost many forehand to forehand duels before focusing on Freitas’ backhand.

A quarterfinal women’s match of interest featured Liu Shi Wen of China, #1 on the World Tour over 2 years, but still not world champion, against chopper Han Ying of  Germany, #8 in the world, who uses inverted on the forehand, short pips sponge on the backhand.  Han employs topspin forehand returns away from the table when Liu attacks Han’s forehand.  Liu makes more shots than she misses while Han misses more than she makes.  Liu usually overpowers Han’s returns.  Han does win the second game 11-8 during which she attempted and made one backhand attack for a point.  During the 5th and final game Han made 2 backhand attacks in a row for consecutive points, but loses the game and match with a failed backhand counterattack.  It is apparent that Han could not expect to win the match on the assumption that Liu would miss far more attacking shots than she made—another way of saying Han’s chop returns were erratic.  Han’s attempts at attacking were too few or weak to be effective overall, and that is an important lesson for “choppers” currently.

In one semifinal Mu Zi, 33rd in the world, of China meets Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan, #5 in the world, coached by her mother, a former player.  Mu is a right handed attacker (inverted FH, short pips sponge BH); Ishikawa is a left handed, inverted on both sides attacker.  Mu leads 10-9 in the first game and her coach calls time out.  During the time out Mu faces her coach throughout his repartee and she nods assent.  Mu had previously been criticized by past world champ and women’s coach Kong Linghui for disrespectfully turning away from the coach during consultation.  Mu returns to the table, serves deep to Ishikawa’s BH.  Ishikawa steps around and FH attacks long and off the table to Mu’s BH corner and Mu wins the first game 11-9.  The second game reaches 10-9 in Ishikawa’s favor when her coach calls timeout.  That game ends 13-11 in Mu’s favor so turnabout was not fairplay!  Mu lost the 4th game 14-16 but won the match 4-1.

In the other women’s semi Liu Shi Wen, #2 in the world ( tho she’s been #1 for much of the past 2 seasons) played another top Chinese player Zhu Yu Ling, #1 in the world going into this tournament.  Both women are right hand attackers with inverted on both sides.  Liu is the faster of the 2 and Zhu compensates by playing a little farther off the table.  One point illustrates how “grooved” a serve can be and how related it may be to point making.  Zhu makes an inside out forehand short serve to Liu’s forehand side 3 times in a row, and 3 times in a row it’s a “net serve”; a 4th try goes in; Liu’s response is a push to Zhu’s FH side  which Zhu hits down the line for the point.  Although I think Liu was the favored player, Zhu wins 4-3.

 

The final pits Zhu Yu Ling, against teammate Mu Zi.  Mu wins 4-3 (11-8, 9-11, 11-9, 11-8, 4-11, 5-11, 11-3).  Mu seems a little faster and plays closer to the table more of the time.  When asked if she thought about winning during the match, Mu said no, she focused on each point.  However when the score reached 10-3 in the 7th, then she thought about winning—playing the odds?  The disparity in teammate ratings with no necessary correlation with match outcomes is common when Chinese players meet each other in international tournaments.  Their standard is very high and only a limited number of players may compete in any given tournament.  The current performance of the candidates is a major factor in determining participants for a given tournament.