Englishman Drinkhall’s standout performance the consolation for Rosskopf’s team
JOHOR BAHRU, 12 July 2017 – Jiang Jialiang’s right call at the opening coin-toss kicked off Round 2 of the T2 Asia Pacific Table Tennis League (T2APAC) as his Team JJ would go on to record a comfortable 16-12 win over Jorg Rosskopf’s Team Rossi.
Both teams would feature teenage debutants, with 16-year-old Sun Yingsha replacing Wu Yang in Team JJ while 17-year-old Wang Chuqin came in for Shang Kun in Team Rossi.
In accordance with competition rules, players who met in Round 1 would not play each other this round. However, this did not in any way diminished the quality of action as both teams produced matches of scintillating quality.
Match 1: Matilda Ekholm (SWE) vs Elizabeta Samara (ROM)
When the dust settled, Ekholm would ponder if this was the one that got away when she could have recorded a bigger win for her team. But the Swede was certainly good for the US$1,000 match win bonus after taking the first three games 11-8, 11-10, 11-9. That’s after Samara had thrown away a 10-5 lead in the second game. The Romanian would storm back to win the fourth game 11-4 and rode the momentum to run away with the Kill Zone game 5-1.
Said Ekholm: “I didn’t take advantage of the fact that I played really well in the first sets, when she didn’t play so good. I should have just kept going. She started playing better, so what can I say? It was an OK match.”
Match 2: Vladimir Samsonov (BLR) vs Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER)
Fresh from winning the Australian Open at the Gold Coast, world number 12 Samsonov took the fight to his higher-ranked opponent – Ovtcharov is world number four – and came away a 3-2 winner. It could well have been a 4-1 win had he been able to close out the Kill Zone game when on match point, instead of losing that game 4-5. After both players traded the first two sets 11-10, 9-11, it was Samsonov who seized control to win the next two 11-7, 11-5. But the beauty of the T2APAC format meant there is always a chance to get back in, with Ovtcharov pulling one back more for this team than for himself. Said Samsonov: “I know Dima very well, and we played each other many times, as well as for the same team. I didn’t expect to beat him today, so I’m very pleased to have done that and to give three points to my team. I’m also very satisfied with my performance.”
Match 3: Sun Yingsha (CHN) vs Georgina Pota (HUN)
Sun may have dropped the opening game of her T2APAC debut 9-11 to Pota but the 16-year-old would celebrate a stirring 4-1 overall win over her Hungarian opponent in a highly competitive encounter. Sun fought back to win the second game 11-9 and had to come back from 6-9 behind to win this game, also 11-9. But that was when Pota looked as though she had run out of ideas, as her world number 10 opponent stormed to an 11-4 win in the fourth before wrapping up the Kill Zone game 5-2. Said Sun: “It’s my first appearance here and it took me a while to get used to things here, and Pota played really well at the start, and took me by surprise. After that first game, I just stayed focused on finding my rhythm, and reducing my mistakes. The T2APAC format is interesting and I enjoy it very much.”
Match 4: Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE) vs Paul Drinkhall (ENG)
Since Round 1, Drinkhall (world no 48) has shown he’s fully capable of taking the fight to the top players, and so it proved against world no 13 Chuang. Leading 7-4 and later 9-7 in the opening game, Drinkhall would see Chuang fighting back to reach game point first. Despite that, the Englishman found the extra belief to grab the next two points and victory. He repeated that fightback in game three, and recorded a comfortable 11-8 win in game two. Now 3-0 up, Drinkhall rode the momentum in the fourth game, going 7-1 in front before Chuang closed the gap, and he managed to just keep his nose in front when the buzzer went, winning 8-7 for an overall 4-0 victory. A great result for Drinkhall who made the semi-finals of the Australian Open before coming to Malaysia for Round 2 of T2APAC.
Said Drinkhall: “I felt great coming into the match, and my style matches his quite well. Everything went well today, and coming back from the Australian Open where I did quite well, it’s been good I’ve been able to keep that form today.”
Match 5: Jeon Ji-hee (KOR) vs Cheng I-Ching (TPE)
Having not enjoyed much luck in Round 1, Jeon was determined to show she belonged in this competition, and this 2-2 result was an uplifting one for the Korean. But the 24-year-old still needed to come back from two games down (5-11, 10-11) before a stirring 11-8 win heading into the final game. Trailing 1-3 with the clock running down, Jeon fought back to tie the score at 3-3 to force the sudden death tie-break, which she won to take the fourth game 4-3 Said Jeon: “I’ve to thank my team-mate Yingsha for her advice near the end of the match. I was very nervous but she told me I still have the chance to win, and her words calmed me down.”
Match 6: Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN) vs Wang Chuqin (CHN)
Team Fixture 7 wrapped up with a battle of the teens, with two players setting up a rivalry that could be the hallmark of table tennis in the coming decades. This time around, it was the 14-year-old Harimoto that prevailed over his 17-year-old opponent Wang 4-1. Not that Wang was not competitive, as he won the second game 11-4 having been edged 10-11 in the opener. But the Chinese T2APAC debutant would rue his inconsistencies as the dropped games two and three 11-10, 11-5 before also dropping the Kill Zone game 5-4, despite reaching match point first.
Team Captains’ quotes:
Jiang Jialiang: “I think everyone played well but it was a bit of a surprise that we drew a blank from Chuang Chih-Yuan’s match against Paul Drinkhall, especially when they both look evenly matched. It was heartening that Jihee and Matilda added to our scoreboard.”
Jorg Rosskopf: “We had the chance to win this tie, but we keep losing the close games. I’m really happy to see Paul playing with so much confidence, we will need that to rub off on all our players so that we can come back strong for the rest of this round.”
Quote of the day:
“We have older players in our team, and younger players too. So it was up to the ones in the middle to deliver today.” – Team JJ captain Jiang Jialiang
Match Day 1
Team Fixture 7: Team JJ vs Team Rossi