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Olympic Champion Stretched to the Limit as Japanese Heroes Bid Farewell
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Kenta Matsudaira so near to sensation. 

5/2/2009        Photo By: Ayoade Ademakinwa

Jun Mizutani and Kenta Matsudaira, two of the rising stars not only of Japanese table tennis but of world table tennis both departed proceedings in the fourth round of the Men’s Singles event at the H.I.S. World Championships in Yokohama on the evening of Saturday 2nd May 2009.

The former fell in a rather passive manner, the latter in dramatic circumstances. In four games Jun Mizutani was overwhelmed by China’s Chen Qi, whilst in seven games Kenta Matsudaira gave the performance of his life to fall to Chen Qi’s colleague, Ma Lin, by the very narrowest of margins.

Chen Qi won 11-6, 11-3, 12-10, 11-4 whilst Ma Lin succeeded 11-9, 11-7, 4-11, 13-11, 8-11, 8-11, 11-9.

Big Occasion
Matsudaira had excelled earlier in the tournament and he has proved in his junior career that he is the man for the big occasion but surely against the reigning Olympic champion it was a case of gathering experience rather than being a serious threat.

He did both, he gathered experience and he was a serious threat.

Comfortable in Rallies
The Japanese teenager was comfortable in the rallies, he matched Ma Lin in the counter topspin department and was content to remain close to the table and block endless Ma Lin attacks.

Furthermore, he demonstrated great intelligence; using the width of the table to execute his trademark service and force weak returns. Consistently he was comfortable playing from the centre of the table, playing forehands and backhands with equal panache.

Deciding Game
He forced a deciding seventh game and established a 4-1 lead, forcing Liu Guoliang, the Chinese Men’s National Head Coach, to call “Time Out”.

The break brought success, Ma Lin levelled at 5-all but at 7-6 he was one point in arrears. At that stage of proceedings experience told, Ma Lin won five points in a row to lead 10-7.

The End
Urged by the partisan crowd, Matsudaira saved two match points but he could not save a third, Ma Lin served, a relatively passive return and a devastating trademark forehand brought matters to an end.

An outstanding effort was over; Matsudaira had proved he is the equal of the best, the equal opf the very best.

Problems Returning Service
Meanwhile, once again Jun Mizutani experienced problems against a left hander of high quality; at the Qatar Open earlier in the year he had been beaten in the third round by Timo Boll.

Against Chen Qi, he found problems returning service and was unable to prevent the Chinese star seizing the initiative.

With a deft touch, exquisite use of the wrists, Chen Qi returned service with great alacrity and then capitalised.

Speed and Touch
Conversely, Mizutani was unable to control the services of Chen Qi; too often he erred and Chen Qi pounced like a panther on his prey.

Furthermore, the speed of Chen Qi came to the fore as the match progressed; he became more relaxed and started to flow as the winning post neared.

Threat to China
Chen Qi won in convincing style, he was sheer class, as for Ma Lin, he breathed a sigh of relief and as for Japan, they must now believe they are a major threat to the might of China; a fact Kenta Matsudaira proved in the Yokohama Arena.

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