by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Pertinently the topics in question were how to teach and identify young players who may realise their potential by becoming defensive player and how to refine the skills needed for effective service return.
Unquestionably, Li Jiao and Elena Timina were ideal choices; totally different but in their own specialities amongst the very best.
Left handed pen-hold group; perhaps Li Jiao was not the greatest rally player, the whole ethos of the style extolled, a style which proved outstandingly successful for many years, was her ability to serve and follow with a quick devastating first attack.
In order to appreciate Li Jiao, you needed to watch closely the timing on the ball, delayed to the last split second and made possible by a quick wrist action to effect subtle changes of spin and speed. Li Jiao is the expert in that field, thus conversely, she is the expert in exercising the art of service receive; on what to focus, on what to identify in your opponent’s technique.
Elena Timina in style, during her career was totally different; often I hear the phrase that a player did not realise their potential; I would suggest that maybe Elena Timina exceeded her potential.
There was nothing flashy or expansive about her play; that does not mean to say she did not have ability, she had great ability but she would not do the ridiculous. The lesson to be learned from Elena Timina is whatever your style, make sure what you do you do, you do well; then in a crisis you have a chance to win.
I have no doubt that when the pressure mounted there was one aspect of her play on which she was at least 200 per cent confident. Elena Timina knew that if she defended with the backhand, heavy backspin time and again, she would wear down her opponent and win.
Once that was achieved there would be a release of emotion, left arm raised in the air and a celebration; just as there was on Monday 8th May; it was her 48th birthday.