Table Tennis Tidbits #13 By Robert Ho

By Robert Ho | Dec. 12, 2017, 10:08 p.m. (ET)

2016 World Team Table Tennis Championships Women's Final

TABLE TENNIS TIDBITS   #13   By Robert Ho  3-5-16

’16 World Team Championships: Retroactive Telepathy

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was the site of  this gigantic international competition: 87 men’s and 80 women’s teams.  Each nation may field a maximum of 5 men and 5 women each.  3 players are selected for each 2 nation competition—best 3 out of 5.  Because of the large number of teams, the competitors are assigned to one of 4 groups based on world rankng and previous performances.  The Championship Division contains the teams with the highest ranking and best previous performances.   A team may move up or down within a group or up or down to another group as determined by its ongoing record.  China, with the best teams in the world sits atop the first group; the U.S. is in group 3.  It was at this tournament that I was “led” to believe I might have telepathic capabilities and might be able to influence the course of events that had already transpired—no, not that China would prevail—“anybody can do that”.

The dominance of China in table tennis may be viewed in Darwinian terms.  After assimilating the 2 winged looping game exhibited by the Hungarians and then the Swedes in the late ‘80s, China has been the perennial leader in the sport.  Large numbers of athletes of each sex at elementary school level take an interest in and begin training in the sport.  For international competition, at any given time there are around 20 of the most gifted players who compete for the limited number of slots for a given tournament.  There are many others who are vying to become one of the special 20 or so at any given time.  Some of the “overflow” emigrate to other countries where they become top players or coaches i.e. Norway, Italy, Spain, Austria, Germany, Japan, the U.S.A., Canada, Poland, and many others.  They may continue playing past their 40s partly because their standard may be significantly higher than that in their adopted countries.  But of course they would not have been the “cream of the crop” in China which is why Liu Guo Liang, a past world champion, and Chinese men’s coach asserted that the Chinese team need not fear overseas Chinese players.

An example of Liu’s “courage” was the match between Xu Xin of China (26 years old whose world ranking has fluctuated between 1 and 3 over the past few seasons) and Chen

Wei Xing (44 years old, 47th in the world) playing for Austria as he has for more than 13 years.  Chen is a right handed chopper who uses inverted on the forehand, medium long pips on the backhand.  Xu is a left handed penhold attacker with inverted on both sides and uses the reverse penhold backhand loop.  Xu has Chen desperately moving around to garner 1, 5, and 5 points in his 3 straight game loss to Xu.

Mima Ito of Japan, 14 years old, became the youngest winner of a World Tour Championship when she took the German Open in 2015.  Now 15 years of age, she won 2 matches against the North Koreans to help her country win that tie (the term for a match between 2 countries).  Each of her 2 opponents was a right handed, inverted FH, long pips BH chopper.  Mima is a right handed attacker: inverted FH, short pips BH.  The first match she won went 5 games although she lost the 4th game 19-21.  Her second win was 3-1.  Watching Mima with her coach between games was amusing.  She frequently nods assent as her coach provides counsel.  Her 3 female teammates, standing beside the coach, synchronously nod assent with Mima in response to the coach—no disagreement at all.


But Mima was to be outdone by Ding Ning of China in the women’s final for the world title.  She did win the first game against twice world singles champ Ding, but the overall superiority of the Chinese women was reflected in 3 straight match wins over the Japanese.

About my “telepathic” experience: I viewed the tie between South Korea and Portugal which had already been played and the outcome of which was not known to me.  Joo Sae Hyuk, the 36 year old chopper, the losing finalist in the men’s singles championship in’03 against then 30 year old (now 43) Werner Schlager of Austria, was playing Joao Monteiro, a lefty looper.  Joo won the first game comfortably as Monteiro was very erratic.  To my surprise, Monteiro became very consistent in the second game which led to an impressive win.  This trend continued in the third game which led to another win.  Toward the end of that game I began noticing that Monteiro was very comfortable and consistent looping from his backhand corner to Joo’s forehand corner.  Because I was biased in favor of Joo, I began “directing” him to chop the ball to the middle of the table or to Monteiro’s forehand corner.  Not until the 4th game did Joo began “following” my instructions in this “must win game” for the Korean, and win he did.  Following the same pattern Joo won the 5th game more comfortably.  Joo won the deciding match in this tie against another lefty looper Marcos Freitas, this time with greater ease (3-1) because of following my “directions” from the start.  Of course I didn’t know at the start of the viewing that the Koreans had won 3-1.  If Joo had not won both his matches the outcome would have been different.  What would J. B. Rhine say about this incident?

The Chinese men won all their ties and the world title again 3-0 over Japan, an easy prediction.  The most difficult match for them was the 3rd game between 3 times World Champion, Olympic Champion, and World Tour Champion Zhang Jike and Yuya Oshima.  Zhang lost one game to Oshima.  Zhang has been hampered by recurrent back and other orthopedic problems.  How much longer he will continue competing is in question.  Ma Long, World Men’s Singles champion since 2015 was totally dominant in his performances.  His game expresses the Yin and Yang of ancient Chinese philosophy: the Yin or feminine principle--delicacy of touch in his pushing and occasional chopping maneuvers, and the Yang, or masculine factor in his powerful looping and counterattacking game.