Table Tennis Tidbits #45

By Robert Ho | May 07, 2019, 10:01 a.m. (ET)


TABLE TENNIS TIDBITS  # 45     By Robert Ho  5-4-19

Mattias Falck nee Karlsson ’19 World Runnerup to Ma Long

In an act of “Men’s Lib”, Mattias Karlsson, adopted his newlywed wife’s last name Falck.  In a different kind of deference the Swede Mattias Falck took second place to now three times Men’s World Table Tennis champion Ma Long who retained his last name with his relatively recent marriage.  A third kind of “Falck-difference” was his blade-rubber: short pips FH, inverted BH; serves only (?) with inverted which means flipping the blade after FH serves.

Falck is the first Swede to reach the Men’s Final at the World Championships since Waldner (’97), Persson (’91), Waldner (’89) and Bengsston (’71).  However Falck was the “bridesmaid” unlike his predecessors who became World Champion in each case.  Bengsston also used short pips, but on the BH, inverted on the FH; the others used inverted on both sides.  Tall and lanky and blond, Falck was of similar physiognomy to his coach and ’91 World Champion Jorgen Persson.  Falck’s stature was no deterrent to his being nimble enough to play at the highest level.

No player, not even the World Champion, is immune to errors in judgment, movement, and execution during competition with the concomitant expressions of frustration and disappointment.  During this tournament, however, one could infer another factor: Falck’s opponents having to adjust to the lesser spin and flatter trajectory of the ball when the pips were used to produce topspin, downspin, or a block.  As might be expected, Ma was the least affected by Falck’s unorthodoxy.

Which brings to mind the “spaghetti racket” in tennis decades ago—the loosely strung racket which was soon outlawed because it was deemed too radical and disruptive to the flow of the game by those in charge.  In table tennis, short pips are probably not considered as radical in its effects; but along with long pips and antispin rubbers, some would argue their use is disruptive to a freer flow of the game and their effects more difficult to comprehend by less sophisticated fans.

The scores of the Falck-Ma match were 5, 7, -7, 9, 5.  In the fourth game, Falck led 5-2, 6-4, 7-5, 8-6, and 9-7 before Ma tied the game at 9-9 after being behind throughout the game til the end.  In the deciding 5th game the score was 4-4; then 6-4 and 9-5 in favor of Ma who led all the way to the end with not another point scored by Falck.  Falck played well to take one game in the match.  He has been enjoying a very good season and it will be fascinating to see if he becomes more dominant as the season progresses.

Winning the world title for the third time reinforces Ma’s standing in the history of the sport.