by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Gao Ning, phlegmatic, safe and reliable accounted for both Liao Cheng-Ting (2-11, 11-4, 11-7, 11-7) and Chen Chien-An (11-9, 12-10, 6-11, 11-5) but that was the sum total of Singaporean success.
Pang Xue Jie experienced defeat in the opening match of the fixture against Chen Chien-An (11-7, 11-5, 11-7) and in the vital fifth and concluding duel when opposing Liao Cheng-Ting (11-8, 11-7, 11-5). The one further win for Chinese Taipei was recorded by Yang Heng-Wei; in the third match of the engagement, he beat Ethan Poh Shao Feng (11-4, 13-11, 11-9).
Success for Chinese Taipei but did they have an extra advantage; the Doha factor.
The coach sitting courtside was Chiang Peng-Lung, the player who won the Men’s Singles and with Chang Yen-Shu the Men’s Doubles at the 2000 Asian Championships.
“Chinese Taipei never won, it was always the Chinese so it was a big surprise; I think the fact that I’ve played in the Asian Championships gives me the experience to know how the players feel.” Chiang Peng-Lung
Equally for the concluding match surely they had a young man with ever growing self-belief; last December Liao Cheng-Ting won the Under 21 Men’s Singles title at the Seamaster 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
Notably the moments of glory for Chiang Peng-Lung and Liao Cheng-Ting were both achieved in Doha.
“I’d not played Gao Ning before, it was difficult playing against him. After I won the first game he changed his tactics; his defence, his blocking play is very good. Before, the last match I was nervous but after winning the first game I became more confident; certainly winning last year in Doha has helped my self-belief.” Liao Cheng-Ting
It may appear at first sight somewhat strange that a quarter-final contest can be played before some teams have started their group qualification contests but that is the nature of the beast.
Six teams receive direct entries to the quarter-finals; the other two places are filled by qualifiers from the initial stage. They are drawn against the top two seeds; thus the draw involving teams seeded three to six can be made before a ball has been hit in anger.