Cheng Yinghua vs Zoran Kalinic: Early Clash of Titans

By Larry Hodges | June 22, 2018, 1:12 p.m. (ET)



One of the most eagerly awaited matches on Thursday was the round of 64 match in Men's 60-64 between Cheng Yinghua and Zoran Kalinic. It was surprising these two played so early. Ironically, they had already played - Cheng/Dan Seemiller had won against Kalinic/Jan Leporis in doubles.

Cheng was at one time one of the best players in the world, a member of the Chinese National Team from 1977-1987. But because he played a European-style two-winged shakehand looping game, they most often used him as a practice partner, where he'd mimic the play of top Europeans - first Tibor Klampar, then Jan-Ove Waldner. And so he never was allowed to play singles at the World Championships, despite a lifetime record against Jan-Ove Waldner of 3-0. (At the 1983 Hungarian Open; at the 1989 Chengdu Open just before Waldner became World Champion; and at the 1995 World Team Cup, playing for USA.)

He "retired" as a player in 1987 and became the head coach at the Sichuan Province in China. But then he came to the U.S. in 1988 (at age 30) as a practice partner/coach for U.S. players at the Resident Training Program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. He liked it here and decided to stay. He would eventually become a U.S. citizen, won Men's Singles at the USA Nationals four times, Men's Doubles three times (with Todd Sweeris, Jack Huang, and Han Xiao), and Mixed Doubles five times (with Gao Jun). He also won Men's Singles at two U.S. Opens, in 1985 as a member of the Chinese National Team, and in 1993 as a member of the U.S. National Team.

Zoran Kalinic is an oddity as a player. He's a 6'5" Serbian lefty penholder blocker doubles specialist with glasses, but also was one of the best singles players with a highest world ranking of about 20. He won Men's Doubles at the 1983 Worlds with Dragutin Surbek, and at the 1989 Worlds finished second in Men's Doubles with Leszek Kucharski of Poland, and second in Mixed Doubles (with Gordana Perkuńćin). He doesn't just block at wide, his blocks are so wide the table seems ten feet wide.

A sizeable crowd gathered to watch the match. The tactics became clear early on - both went after the other's forehand, Cheng with crosscourt backhand loops, Kalinic with quick, extremely angled blocks. Cheng had surprising trouble with Kalinic's tricky serves, and that and blocking kept Kalinic in the match, as well as some sudden forehand loops that often caught Cheng off guard. Cheng went up 2-1 in games and led 9-7 with Kalinic serving - only to miss both intricate serves badly. But then it was Cheng's serve. Kalinic missed his first serve, and then Cheng ended the last point with a forehand and a "Yeah!" to win the match, 5,-6,9,9.


Cheng and Kalinic warm up across from Lindh and Persson at the 2018 WVC

Cheng would go on to win his next match against Ye Yiming of China, 9,10,4 (a long pips blocker with a spectacular forehand), and is now into the Final 16, to be continued on Saturday. Friday is all doubles. Cheng/Dan Seemiller, assuming they win each round, will be playing at 11AM T41; 1:30PM T32; 3PM T60; and 4PM T42 - and that only gets them to the semifinals on Saturday.