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Men’s Title Won by Stars of China but Man of the Moment is from Chinese Taipei
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Chen Chen-An who beat Zhang Jike  Photo By: Xi Peng

03/31/2013        2013 World Team Classic (Click here to access this section)

China won the Men’s title at the Times Property World Team Classic in Guangzhou on Sunday 31st March 2013 beating Chinese Taipei by three matches to one at the final hurdle.

The trio of Ma Long, Xu Xin and Zhang Jike concluded the day standing tall on the top step of the podium but the man to gain the highest honour was from their adversaries.

Chen Chien-An rose to a new level to beat Zhang Jike in the second match of the contest; he set the Tianhe Stadium alight.

At the semi-final stage the Japanese trio of Jun Mizutani, Koki Niwa and Kenta Matsudaira had challenged the champions’ elect; in the final the Chinese Taipei trio of Chuang Chih-Yuan, Chen Chien-An and Chiang Hung-Chieh proved more than worthy adversaries.

No Presents
A 32nd birthday next Tuesday but from Xu Xin, there were no early birthday presents for Chuang Chih-Yuan; the candles on the cake were blown out by a Chinese hurricane.

There are pen-hold grip past and present but none like Xu Xin, the long raking forehand, the incredibly fast sideways moment reaped rewards against a player known for speed of foot; there are few players faster than Chuang Chih-Yuan.

Currently, Chuang Chih-Yuan is enjoying a renaissance of form, having experienced a few years in the doldrums; never able to equal his quite outstanding feat in 2002 when he won the Men’s Singles event at the ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals in Stockholm.

The year 2012 saw a return to winning ways, victory at the GAC GROUP 2012 Spanish Open and fourth place in the Men’s Singles event were notable achievements.

Close First Game
Against Xu Xin, he posed questions in the opening game but once the Chinese star had secured success, there was an element of relaxation and a massive growth in self-belief.

Xu Xin won the first seven points in the second game and surrendered just two further points as he raced into a two games to nil lead. Not only was the pile-driver forehand working to perfection, so was the backhand, varying from controlled top spin directed towards the body of Chuang Chih-Yuan or ripped at lightning speed wide to the forehand.

There may only be a difference of four places on the current Men’s World Rankings – Xu Xin is at no.2, Chuang Chih-Yuan at no.6 – but in terms of points in the Guangzhou duel, the gap was greater. In the third game Xu Xin afforded his redoubtable adversary a meagre three points.

After a close first game it was cruel domination, Xu Xin won in three straight games (11-8, 11-2, 11-3).

The Chinese juggernaut was rolling but it was soon stopped in its tracks.

Chen Chien-An beat Zhang Jike to set the Tianhe Stadium alight. “Jia You” rang around the auditorium; “more steam, play stronger” but it was Chen Chien-An who played stronger, it was Chien-An who fuelled the fire.

In the guise of a highway robber he stole the first game; then according to the expected plan lost the next two before, hitting a hot streak, he secured the fourth and levelled matters.

Deciding Game
A deciding game beckoned, Chen Chien-An, like a hound honing in on his prey, smelt blood; in the deciding fifth game he established a 3-1 lead.

Zhang Jike rapidly called “Time Out” and returned courtside to gain advice from Qin Zhijian, the National Coach on duty. The advice was undoubtedly of the highest order but it was Chen Chien-An who reaped the benefit from the break.

He won the next four points to lead 7-1; Zhang Jike reduced the deficit to 7-4 but the next point went to Chen Chien-An.

Jia You, Jia You
A packed Tianhe Stadium willed Zhang Jike to perform the great escape. “Jia You, Jia You” rang around the auditorium. Chen Chien-An maintained his positive approach.

Zhang Jike is noted for his backhand but it was an outrageous backhand quicksilver top spin across the diagonal from Chen Chien-An that left Zhang Jike and the whole of Guangzhou stunned. It meant Chien Chen-An led led 10-6, four match points.

Composed, Zhang Jike saved two match points, he could not make it three, Chen Chien-An celebrated, Chinese Taipei had levelled.

Chen Chien-An won in five games (11-9, 7-11, 6-11, 11-7, 11-8).

Watching Chen Chien-An in Guangzhou beat the Olympic champion, it seemed mesmerising that he did not he did not qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games!

Back in Action
A short break and Chen Chien-An was back into the arena to partner Chiang Hung-Chieh, the young man who a decade ago was identified alongside Japan’s Jun Mizutani as a star of the future; the two met in the Boys’ Singles event at the first ever World Junior Championships in Santiago in 2003.

Alas, injury has blighted the progress of Chiang Hung-Chieh.

World Champions Awaited
In 2005 he won the Boys’ Doubles title at the World Junior Championships with Huang Sheng-Sheng but in Guangzhou, with Chen Chien-An, he faced the mightiest pair of all; the reigning World Men’s Doubles champions, Ma Long and Xu Xin.

The task could not have been tougher and it proved too tough; Ma Long and Xu Xin posted a straight games win (12-10, 11-6, 11-6).

Under Pressure
China had regained the lead.

Next into the arena came Ma Long and Chuang Chih-Yuan; make no mistake Ma Long was under pressure; in the first game he saved games points at 10-9 and 11-10 before emerging successful.

More Relaxed
The initial success, just as it had been for Xu Xin in the opening contest against Chuang Chih-Yuan, relaxed Ma Long.

He dominated proceedings to post a straight games win (13-11, 11-4.

Greatest Honour for Second Place
The title belonged to China.

However, the man who left with the greatest sense of victory was the man who beat the Olympic and World champion, the man in form, the man to cause the upset of the day, the outstanding Chen Chien-An.



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