by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In Rotterdam, Zhang Jike was in fact making his third appearance in a World Championships final; the first had been in Yokohama two years earlier when in partnership with Mu Zi, he finished in runners up position in the Mixed Doubles event. Defeat was experienced at the hands of colleagues Li Ping and Cao Zhen.
However, more relevant was the following year at the Liebherr 2010 World Team Championships in Moscow; he was selected alongside Ma Long and Ma Lin to face the German trio of Timo Boll, Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Christian Süss in the final. Xu Xin and most notably Wang Hao, the winner of the Men’s Singles title in Yokohama were resigned to the bench.
China was under pressure; earlier in the afternoon in the Women’s Final, China had lost to Singapore. The male counterparts had an extra responsibility.
Furthermore, there was an added responsibility on the shoulders of Zhang Jike. In the opening match in the final, Timo Boll had recovered from a two games to nil deficit to beat Ma Long, before Ma Lin overcame Dimitrij Ovtcharov to level matters. Zhang Jike faced Christian Süss, it was a crucial contest. He lost the first before winning close second and then the next two games to set the scene for Ma Lin to complete the task. He duly obliged by beating Timo Boll.
Was that pressure win in Moscow a major reason for the Rotterdam success? Once again as the title loomed, in the port city, the pressure mounted.
Zhang Jike won the first two games in the Rotterdam Men’s Singles final; then he lost the next two before winning the third. In the sixth game at 10-5, he held five match points. Wang Hao saved all five. The next point went to Zhang Jike, Wang Hao saved again and then held one of his own, before on his seventh attempt, he converted (12-10, 11-8, 6-11, 9-11, 11-5, 14-12).
Was the ripping of the shirt one of celebration or sheer relief?
Now had Wang Hao won that game point at 11-10; would we have witnessed one of the great recoveries of all time? Would the momentum have been such that Wang Hao would have won in Rotterdam?
Would Zhang Jike have progressed to win at the London 2012 Olympic Games and the Liebherr 2013 World Championships? Would the career of Zhang Jike been so different? Did one point make all the difference?
Liebherr 2013 World Championships: Zhang Jike beats Wang Hao