by Wade Townsend
It’s a good day to be Zhou Qihao.
The fresh faced 20 year old defeated Ma Long in three games in the second day of action at the Chinese trials in Shenzhen.
It was almost a case of what could have been. Zhou was leading 10-6 in the third game, but the world number one levelled the score at 10-all.
“I wasn’t expecting to win but when I was leading 10-6 I thought I might be able to. I started missing because of this.” Zhou Qihao
But choking was out of the question.
“My coach told me to keep looking to third ball attack and repare for both the wide and long serves to the backhand corner.” Zhou Qihao
It paid off. Ma served long to Zhou’s backhand when 10-9 down. The first time it worked, Zhou swung and missed. Ma looked to repeat the serve at 11-10. Zhou was ready this time and took the game and match 12-10.
The coach with the tactics? None other than the famed Wu Jingping.
Wu has coached the likes of Xu Xin, Fan Zhendong, Ma Lin and Wang Hao. He had retired before the Rio Olympics but Liu Guoliang asked him to stay a little longer. It’s no wonder with a resumé that good. He will be back in retirement soon, but he is going out adding another footnote to his coaching career.
Despite taking down Ma Long, Zhou knows that the road to the World Championships is more than just about a single win.
“Only one ticket is available in the first stage of the qualification. There are 12 players with the Big Four; we young players have less opportunity to win the ticket. As a young player, to fight as much as we can is our attitude; we look at next game and try not to be affected by losing.” Zhou Qihao
On the other side of the table, Ma Long doesn’t appear to be enjoying being at the mercy of chance and fortune. The best of three format has shown the supposedly immortal Ma Long maybe does bleed.
“There is too much chance in a best of three match. I made a lot of mistakes and gave Zhou too many chances.” Ma Long.
Meanwhile, it was second loss for Fan Zhendong, going down in straight games against Liu Dingshuo, Fan was never in the match, losing 11-5, 11-4.
When asked about how he sounds similar on the court to Zhang Jike, Liu responded that he isn’t looking to imitate anyone.
“I don’t try to be like someone else, only myself.” Liu Dingshuo
Liu’s performance left only Xu Xin and Zhang Jike from the Big Four unscathed on day two.
In the women’s side of the draw both Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen managed a clean sheet.
With three matches coming up on day three, Liu Shiwen feels it will come down to how she perceives herself as a player.
“I think I must act as a young player and fight. If I see myself as an old and more experienced player, it’s likely that I would use defence more, trying to save the game, instead of winning it. Having more experience only means I’m more confident with my strengths. If I want to win, I have to play my best.” Liu Shiwen
You have to be hungry to win, and an aggressive youthful style may pay dividends.
Day three commences on Sunday 5th March at 13:05 (GMT+8) local time, so be sure to catch the action live on the ITTF Facebook page.
Checkout the results from day two below.
Xu Xin 2-0 Fang Bo Gu Yuting 2-1 Li Jiayi
Fan Zhenong 2-0 Yan An Mu Zi 2-1 Zhu Yuling
Zhou Yu 2-1 Xu Chenhao Ding Ning 2-0 Yuan Xuejiao
Lin Gaoyuan 2-1 Liang Jingkun Wu Yang 2-1 Chen Meng
Zhang Jike 2-1 Zhou Qihao Chen Ke 2-0 Wang Manyu
Ma Long 2-0 Liu Dingshuo Chen Meng 2-1 Gu Yuting
Liang Jingkun 2-1 Yan An Wang Manyu 2-0 Zhu Yuling
Xu Xin 2-0 Xu Chenhao Yuan Xuejiao 2-0 Feng Yalan
Zhang Jike 2-1 Fang Bo Mu Zi 2-1 Yuan Xuejiao
Liu Dingshuo 2-0 Fan Zhendong Ding Ning 2-0 Wu Yang
Lin Gaoyuan 2-0 Yan An Liu Shiwen 2-0 Chen Ke
Zhou Qihao 2-1 Ma Long Feng Yalan 2-1 Chen Meng
Xu Xin 2-0 Zhou Yu Chen Ke 2-0 Gu Yuting
Liang Jingkun 2-0 Liu Dinsgshuo