Ian Marshall, Editor of Table Tennis Illustrated
|Consistency & Experience Counts
It was experience versus youth, a player who represented China with great success before moving to foreign shores against a teenager who is trying to establish herself in the national team. |
It was GAO Jun, nowadays representing the United States of America against CAO Zhen, a rising star in the Chinese national team.
The match went the full seven games distance with experience eventually prevailing, GAO Jun won 5-11 11-8 11-9 11-4 9-11 3-11 11-7 .
|GAO Jun, experience told
|“Consistency is my game”, said GAO Jun. “My task was to force her to make errors.” GAO Jun is both consistent and experienced, she won the Women’s Doubles title with CHEN Zihe at the World Championships in Chiba in 1991 and three years later the pair won silver in the Women’s Doubles at the Barcelona Olympic Games. She originates from Heibei province in northern China and was originally coached by TANG Yingsheng, the coach who also guided the fortunes of NIU Jianfeng and BAI Yang who are both present in Shanghai and come from the same region of China as GAO Jun.
Throughout the match against CAO Zhen, GAO Jun blocked and hit conservatively, never rushing, she kept the ball on the table and eventually her opponent made errors. “I was relaxed, she was under pressure, she was playing in her home country and when you are playing for the Chinese team you are always under pressure”, added GAO Jun. “Also, this is the first time she’s played in the World Championships, it’s such a big event and the whole atmosphere can be daunting.”
GAO Jun’s style of play is the traditional Asian style; short pimples, penhold grip, using one side of the racket only, block when the ball comes into the backhand court and hit quickly with the forehand when the chance arises. “On the backhand she has the same short pimples as me”, said GAO Jun. “She has the speed, she’s faster than me, she attacks faster and moves faster!”
The American player kept her composure throughout and even when a member of the crowd shouted, suggesting she should retire, she walked away when preparing to serve, took a deep breath and returned to the fray, totally focused. The level of concentration needed to succeed in big events is enormous and GAO Jun demonstrated this crucial element of table tennis to the full. “Concentration is vital but I also think now that we play to eleven points experience is even more vital”, she said. “Games can change so quickly, you’re not safe leading 10-5!”
Watching the match throughout with an eagle eye was the former United States champion and leading player, Danny SEEMILLER. “GAO Jun has an unusual style so for a young player it’s difficult to adjust”, he said. “She changes direction and length so well, the tactics were excellent.”
Naturally pleased was United States Table Tennis Association President, Sheri PITTMAN who had vocally supported GAO Jun throughout. “I can make enough noise for five hundred”, joked Sheri, no comment! “The guy from the crowd who said she should quit got her fired up”, she added. “Considering the pressure she did marvellously well, I think it’s the first time she’s beaten a member of the Chinese national team in a World Championships.”
It was a fine performance by the player who now lives in Maryland, United States and it proved that there is more than one way to play table tennis.
Meanwhile in the remaining fourth round matches in the top half of the draw China’s ZHANG Yining beat North Korea’s KIM Hyang Mi, Viktoria PAVLOVICH of Belarus overcame Hong Kong’s TIE Yana and the latter’s compatriot defeated LIN Ling, defeated Croatia’s Tamara BOROS.
In the lower half of the draw NIU Jianfeng ended the hopes of Krisztina TÓTH, GUO Yue beat FAN Ying in the all China clash whilst GUO Yan, also of China, overcame Hong Kong’s SONG Ah Sim. In the final Women’s Singles contest of the fourth round the progress of Korea’s MOON Hyun Jung came to end losing by the narrowest of seven games margins to LI jiao of the Netherlands.
LI Jiao originally from Chengdu in China arrived in the Netherlands five years ago, she joined the national team in July 2004, practises at the National Training Centre and plays for Nak Van Helder.