William HENZELL found Vladimir SAMSONOV in imperious mood
Vladimir SAMSONOV is one of the world’s most complete players; it’s arguably easier to find a needle in a haystack than find a chink in the armoury of the stylish man from Belarus who must have felt almost at home playing in the Liebherr Men’s World Cup in Liège. He plays for Villette Charleroi in Belgium, the club being less than an hour’s drive from the Country Hall du Pays de Liège. He played in his usual unhurried manner and duly won in straight games, quite simply proving to be too good for Australia’s William HENZELL, a man who like SAMSONOV is a true sportsman, good manners and total effort.
“It doesn’t get any better than playing in a tournament like this; in table tennis this is as big as it comes”, said William HENZELL after being given something of lesson in how to play table tennis by Vladimir SAMSONOV. “He just doesn’t miss, he doesn’t make any mistakes; you just can’t find a weakness in his play”, continued HENZELL. “The ball keeps coming back, the problem is it comes back faster and faster!”
HENZELL is from Adelaide in South Australia and has played in Sweden for the last nine years; first of all for Kalmar and then for Lyckerby, the club he now represents. “I made the move to Sweden on the advice of my coach in Australia, Suante ATLAS”, he continued. “If live in Australia and you want to progress in table tennis then you must move away, the number of good players in Sweden is so much greater and for thirty years they’ve been one of the world’s leading table tennis countries.”
Very true but it’s now some forty years since the late Hans ALSÉR and Kjell JOHANSSON were the dominant players in Europe!
Playing in Sweden, William HENZELL has been a regular visitor to England in the past twelve months and he’s been very successful on the country’s Grand Prix Circuit. “I know Martin RODGERS well, he’s also from Australia and works in England for the Daily Mirror, so I came to see him and do some coaching in the Derby, Nottingham area.” added HENZELL. “At my level, playing in the English Grand Prix is important, I can win some money!”
A very realistic comment but of course playing in the Liebherr World Cup is not quite the same. “Yes, the first round here is a little different to the first round in a tournament in Wolverhampton”, smiled HENZELL. Now, that’s not an adverse comment about Wolverhampton who over the years had several players, especially their women’s team, who have performed very creditably in national competitions. However, HENZELL is right; I live near Wolverhampton and I’ve not come across anyone in that city or in an English Grand Prix tournament who plays quite like Vladimir SAMSONOV!
“Vladimir SAMSONOV is different from many of the world’s best players”, continued HENZELL. “He’s very fluent in the way he plays, it’s a style I really like, one I try to emulate, it’s the way I try to play.” HENZELL is a player who is at his best in rallies and his style is very fluent; also, he has a goal, to do well in the Commonwealth Games that will be held in Melbourne in his native Australia in 2006.
So, what are his chances? “I think it will be won by one of the Chinese players who have moved”, explained HENZELL. Certainly in the Women’s Singles with such players as the lady currently ranked number three on the World Ranking List, LI Jia Wei, eligible to play, the potential chances for other female players do not look rosy. Similarly, in the men’s events, LI Jia Wei’s Singapore’s colleagues GAO Ning and YANG Zi are formidable opponents as is Canada’s ZHANG Peng, so for players like HENZELL, the table tennis event in Melbourne is going to be tough.
“England won in Manchester in 2002 and we had a real chance to beat them”, said William HENZELL. “It’s still hurts, we could have won.” Now, William HENZELL is talking to the wrong man, am I, an Englishman, expected to feel sorry for an Australian?
For the past twenty years we’ve lost to them at cricket in the series of matches which is always known as the Ashes but this year who won? “Yes, the Poms have some good cricketers now”, conceded HENZELL, for those who don’t speak fluent Australian, a Pom is an Englishmen and in England we are still celebrating the success of the summer; in fact we’re still celebrating winning the Football World Cup in 1966.
On Friday 21st October, William HENZELL didn’t have a victory to celebrate but he could celebrate the fact that he had qualified to play in one of the world’s major table tennis tournaments; he’d acquitted himself well, he was richer for the experience and throughout the contest his demeanour and behaviour had been impeccable. He may just cause a few surprises in Melbourne next year.
Vladimir SAMSONOV, the master craftsman (Photo: Martin)