Table Tennis Tidbits #24

By Robert Ho | April 17, 2018, 11:32 p.m. (ET)

Jun Mizutani


TABLE TENNIS TIDBITS # 24   By Robert Ho  (8-20-16)


The Olympics 8-6—17-16:   Adrenaline Rush in Rio--“Mizu” Finally Does It!


The Brazilian committee in charge of transmitting TT doings from Rio de Janeiro so that fanatics could watch the competition on their computers must have had a lot of fun.  Imagine watching a match tied at 2 games all, the picture disappears and a bulletin informs the viewer that transmission has ended for the day; or midway through a point the action goes into suspended animation for several seconds several times during a game or match.  The viewer developed a more acute appreciation for what he did see.


“Bare Bones” Results:


Men’s Singles: Gold- Ma (China); Silver-Zhang (China); Bronze-Mizutani (Japan); 4th Samsonov-Russia.


Women’s Singles: Gold-Ding (China); Silver-Li (China); Bronze-Kim (DPR Korea); 4th Fukuhara (Japan).


Men’s Team: Gold-China (Ma, Zhang, Xu); Silver-Japan (Koki, Mizutani, Yoshimura); Bronze: Germany (Octcharov, Boll Stegner); 4th-South Korea (Jung, Joo, Lee).


Women’s Team: Gold-China (Li, Ding, Liu); Silver-Germany (Han, Shan, Solja); Bronze-Japan (Ito, Ishikawa, Fukuhara); 4th-Singapore (Zhou, Feng, Yu).


“Blood and Guts” Outcomes:

In the Men’s Team Final, China lost one match:  Mizutani exulted, threw his bat in the air, fell to his knees, pumped his fists, his face ecstatic--for the first time in 9 matches he’d beaten Xu.  During the past year when they met for the 7th time, Mizutani was leading in the 7th game with about 6 match points and lost.  In this Olympics he was leading 2-0 in games and was leading in what could have been the deciding 3rd but lost it.  However he managed to win the next 2 and the match.  If not because of hubris, then maybe because he apparently likes the challenge of difficult shots or situations, Xu allowed things to go too far.  Mizutani did play an intelligent match.  He exploited Xu’s eagerness to cover the whole court with his forehand by using BH blocks down the line to Xu’s FH corner (they’re both lefties).  One reason Mizutani has so much trouble with Xu is that the Japanese player, most of the time, uses the flexed elbow FH loop which significantly limits the power compared to the extended elbow version which Xu and all the Chinese players employ for maximum power.


In a pre Olympics drill Liu Guo Liang the men’s coach and World Champion from the early ‘90s was serving the ball to Xu’s BH corner or mid table.  Xu was supposed to FH loop to the far corner.  Because Xu was somewhat erratic, Liu demonstrated what was desired.  It was impressive how consistent Liu was in doing so now almost 2 decades past his competition years.  I can imagine Liu tearing his hair out over his at times underachieving charge who has ranked #1-#3 over the past 2-3 seasons, perhaps a factor in his not winning the world championship while having fun doing it “his way.”


 

In contrast to Xu, World, and now Olympic Champion, Ma Long plays a straightforward and economical power game.  However Ma’s returns of Niwa’s first 2 serves were FH chops for outright points!   Niwa Koki, a boyish, unaffected lefty played the first match in the team finals against Ma and at times seemed awed by the efficient manner in which he was decimated by the World Champion.  The performance of Zhang Xie Ke, past Olympic and World  Champion again suggested he may be at the end of his career with visible evidence he was hampered by back problems.


The world’s best male chopper, Joo Sae Hyuk of South Korea,was relatively helpless (1,4,4) against Ma Long and appeared to be less threatening than his 2 much younger teammates.


At the Olympics in ’12, Li Xiao Xia of China beat teammate Ding Ning her to win the singles title; in’16 the outcome was reversed between the 2 world champions.

 

The women’s bronze metal winner was a surprise at the Olympics.  Kim Song-I from North Korea first trumped Kasumi Ishikawa (a past Japanese champion) who expected to go far in the competition.  Ishikawa was troubled by Kim’s steady chopping defense and occasional surprise attacks.  Kim ultimately lost to Ding in a semifinal, and beat Ai Fukuhara of Japan in the Bronze metal match.  Kim did have the advantage of anonymity as North Koreans do not often participate in international competition.


Quadri Aruna of Nigeria did well to beat Timo Boll of Germany and Chen Chien-An of Taipei only to be awed in his loss to Ma Long the ultimate champion.