by Wade Townsend
Team China’s warm up matches for the Liebherr 2017 World Championships continued yesterday, with Xu Xin being the centre of attention.
Having lost the previous day to Lin Gaoyuan 4-1, the coaches decide to mix-up the playing schedule. Xu Xin was meant to be up against Liang Jingkun in yesterday’s warm up match, but the decision was made to change his opponent to Yu Ziyang.
“We changed the opponent because last night the coaches asked me if I wanted to try again playing with a left-handed player. And I could choose someone who I’m more confident to play with. On the one hand, I can adjust my state in this way, on the other hand, we are looking for a more thorough system and tactics to play against left-handed players.” Xu Xin
Finding solutions to play against left-handed opponents is a top priority for Xu and the coaching staff. In the Asian Championships last month, the pen-grip pro lost to Koki Niwa, and at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the team event Xu went down to Jun Mizutani 12-10 in fifth. Add to that another loss to Lin Gaoyuan at the Marvellous 12 and you can see a problematic pattern is developing.
“From closed training to warmup matches, our target is to form a comprehensive playing style. Before we were more focused on playing against right-handed players. This time we spent a lot of time on the other side, because there are a lot of left-handed foreign players, especially ones who are very strong; among our main rivals, about half are left-handed.” Xu Xin
The top ranked players are disproportionately left-handed compared to the general population. Southpaw table tennis is a route to success; Xu Xin should know. But now he is on the other side of the table, trying to deal with the problems lefties create.
“Once we find out a complete playing system and discover our opponent’s defect, I would be more confident to play a left-handed match. I think about this playing style during the match and off the court. I have to implant this playing style in myself day by day; it won’t be fast.” Xu Xin
In other matches in yesterday’s warm up event, Ma Long had a tough time against Zhou Yu going down 4-2. While on the women’s side Ding Ning suffered a similar fate against Chen Xingtong, also losing in six games.
Team China will head to Luxembourg on the Saturday 20th May for one week of adaptive training before they make their way to Düsseldorf.