by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Yang Haeun, set her team on the road to victory by giving what I consider one of her best ever performances; the quality of play was of a technically high level but that was not the major feature.
The impressive aspect was her mental stability as she overcame Kim Song I in four games (11-13, 11-5, 17-15, 11-7). In the opening game, Yang Haeun had her chances but it was the stalwart defence of Kim Song I that prevailed; the backhand, the side of the racket on which she uses the long pimpled rubber was solid and secure.
Deep breaths at the end of the first game, advice from An Jaehyun, the National Coach and perhaps more pertinently advice from Kim Kyungah, the classic defender now back in international action. The words of wisdom paid dividends.
“In the first game I focused on trying not to make any mistakes; in the second I played more aggressively and more to her forehand, from the backhand the ball came back with such heavy backspin; from the forehand there was less spin. Kim Kyungah told me that the ball was coming back slower than is usual and I should be prepared.” Yang Haeun
Success for Yang Haeun was followed by success for twinkle toes; the delightful balance and movement extolled by Suh Hyowon eventually prevailed against the attacking skills of Chao Hyo Sim (11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-4).
Defence was the backbone of the victory but of the world’s leading defensive players, Suh Hyonwon is the player prepared to execute a forehand topspin more often than her peers.
“I kept defending, playing with backspin but my colleagues kept encouraging me to topspin from my forehand more often; they kept telling me you can do it, you can do it”, Suh Hyowon
The advice was heeded, the victory gained; in the contest between attack and defence the score-line read one-all but more pertinently, it read two-nil in favour of Korea Republic.
Success for the backspin art in the guise of Suh Hyowon; in the match that concluded matters it was the same technique but more pronounced, stalwart defence and immense experience that prevailed.
Now a mother with a five year old son and three year old daughter, playing in a more relaxed manner than I have ever seen before, Kim Kyungah beat Ri Mi Gyong in three straight games (11-8, 13-11, 11-9).
“I wasn’t nervous; I missed playing table tennis and I’m just happy to be playing once again”, Kim Kyungah.
A happy player and understandably it was happy coach.
“It’s my first time as coach of the Women’s Team; today it was really enjoyable, a really good performance.” An Jaehyun
Success for Korea Republic and a podium finish guaranteed after a year when Korean women had not met with the best of fortunes; no medals at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships, no medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The year 2017 already shines brighter.