by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Thoughts of Beijing
Dramatic moments at an Olympic Games, Vladimir Samsonov is no stranger to such situations.
At the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, when confronting Sweden’s Jörgen Persson in the fourth round of the Men’s Singles event in the sixth game he was involved in a situation where there was doubt as to whether a return he made had touched the side or edge.
Although not strictly to the rules, the point was replayed after a delay; in the contest against Dimtrij Ovtcharov in Rio de Janeiro he was involved in another situation that forced a delay. In the second game he lost his footing when trying to execute a forehand top spin with the score at 7-4 in his favour. He finished sitting on the floor; he lost the next point and asked for a break owing to pain in his right side. The break was granted.
In Beijing after the break, Vladimir Samsonov had lost the game and eventually the match, in Rio de Janeiro, after Dimitrij Ovtcharov levelled at 7-all, Vladimir Samsonov won the game and he won the next, a mammoth encounter.
The mind went back to the previous evening when Dimitrij Ovtcharov had lost the opening game against Slovenia’s Bojan Tokic 33-31; those figures were never reached but it took seven game points to reach a decision.
Tension and it was tension to the very end; in the sixth game there were memories of Beijing and drama beyond drama.
Trailing 7-8, he returned the ball from the depths, a high lob, the ball hit the edge, there was a gasp from the crowd. Was it a side or was it an edge? The officials looked at each other; the decision was edge, it was parity at 8-all. There was no dispute, Dimitrij Ovtcharov accepted the decision.
At 10-9 Vladimir Samsonov held match point, the point was saved; then another moment of drama, at 11-all Dimitrij Ovtcharov attempting a short service to the forehand, served off. Yet again the German saved the match point but he was not to repeat the success.
Leading 13-12, Vladimir Samsonov served, too long; eyes wise Dimtrij Ovtcharov ripped into a forehand top spin, he finished off balance, a reaction block sped down the centre of the table.
Arms high, Vladimir Samsonov celebrated; a quarter-finalist 20 years ago in Atlanta when beaten by China’s Wang Tao, the same fate again four years later in Sydney at the hands of Jan-Ove Waldner, at last Vladimir Samsonov would fight for a medal.
“It was a really strange match; after my injury, I couldn’t play a strong forehand topspin, so I had to change something, tactically I had to play a bit slower and more passively”, said Vladimir Samsonov. “I’m getting closer to a medal but the players I’m going to face are very strong and I will have to see how badly injured I really am, I need to go to the hospital; I have had problems with my ribs several times for the past six years, I really hope it’s not bad.”
Hopefully for the good of sport, he will be fit; Rio may be is last chance,