Tournaments

16 Apr 2017

An expectant crowd, approaching some 7,000 adoring fans in the Wuxi Stadium, the penultimate day of play, Saturday 14th April, at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships ended with the faithful returning to their various abodes of residence in buoyant mood.

They had been stunned by the defeats of Zhu Yuling and Chen Meng in the Women’s Singles event at the hands of Japan’s effervescent Miu Hirano; they came expecting their heroines to secure all three steps of the medal podium.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Also, in the Men’s Singles event, the defeat of Ma Long by Korea’s Jeong Sangeun and  Xu Xin at the hands of Koki Niwa had caused a sense of disbelief but at the end of the day one man delivered the goods; for the concluding day of play there is a sense of anticipation.

The stadium will be packed to the rafters; not doubt 90 per cent will be screaming girls yelling the name “Zhang Jike, Zhang Jike, Zhang Jike”.

At the quarter-final stage of the Men’s Singles event, the no.4 seed, he beat colleague Lin Gaoyuan, the no.13 seed, in a tension packed five games duel (11-7, 6-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-7); the crucial stage of the contest being in the third game. He led 10-8, Lin Gaoyuan won the next point; Zhang Jike elected for “Time Out” but the decision did immediately bear fruit. Level at 10-all, the next two points went to the 2012 Olympic champion and the Wuxi Stadium erupted.

Spare a thought for Lin Gaoyuan, who has not been selected for the Chinese Team in recent years but will be on duty at the forthcoming Liebherr 2017 World Championships; I heard not one cry in his favour from the excited fans. He must have thought he was playing on foreign soil and he was not a native of the host nation.

Zhang Jike, supported to the hilt, emerged successful and I wonder is the adulation doing him not favours? Is it just too much?

However, I must pay great credit to the 29 year old London 2012 Olympic champion.

There was a determination to succeed, a real determination, Zhang Jike fought tooth and nail for every point. If there is an argument that sometimes on the international scene we have seen lack lustre performances from the man who has won the biggest titles in sport, there was nothing lacking in his approach against Lin Gaoyuan.

He was single minded throughout; that demeanour suggests that we can anticipate a battle royal on the concluding day when he meets, colleague Fan Zhendong, the no.2 seed, at the semi-final stage.

The defending champion, he beat Hong Kong’s Lam Siu Hang in straight games (11-3, 11-4, 11-8); the only moment of concern for coach Qin Zhijian sitting courtside being in the third game when Fan Zhendong trailed 6-8. Qin Zhijian called “Time Out”, the advice was sound; Fan Zhendong did not lose another point!

Defeat for Lam Siu Hang but not seeded, a quarter-final finish was more than could have been anticipated.

In the opposite half of the draw; the giant killers meet, Jeong Sangeun faces Koki Niwa in the contest that will set the concluding day in motion.

Play starts at 1.00pm (local time) on Sunday 16th April.

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