by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In the fourth game, losing two games to one, he trailed Baek Hogyun 6-9, he recovered to 8-9; Baek Hogyun called “Time Out”, the next point the Korean served in the net. It was a pivotal moment, it destroyed Baek Hogyun. Yuta Tanaka won the next two points before in the fifth game establishing a 6-0 and 7-1 lead. Baek Hogyun, the mind in turmoil, fought against hmself but the die was cast. It was victory for Yuta Tanaka (12-14, 14-12, 9-11, 11-9, 11-5), a place in the final for Japan.
A pivotal moment but the moment for which I have the greatest admiration for Yuta Tanaka came at the end of the third game, Baek Hogyun leading 10-9 returned the ball high from wide in the court. The umpire judged edge not side, the point was awarded to the Korean; he led by two games to one. Yuta Tanaka looked stunned, after looking towards the bench, his colleagues, he walked quietly back to the end of the court.
There is an award for sportsmanship, whether that action was sportsmanship or not, it was exemplary good behaviour. It is easy to be sporting when winning 9-0 or losing by that margin; when it is for a place in a World Championships final it takes a man of exceptional character not to argue; for me I’d give him the award here and now.
Equally when he won the last point he stood motionless, he did not race to the court surrounds to hug his colleagues; he shook hands with his deflated opponent. Simply good manners, good behaviour, I salute you Mr Tanaka,
“I almost lost, I am really in a daze at the moment, I am not sure what’s happening, I am so pleased, so grateful that I won; during the match on some occasions things did not go my way. I tried to put those moments out of my head.” Yuta Tanaka
The win in the last match came after Yuta Tanaka had lost the opening encounter when facing An Jaehyun (11-8, 11-1, 8-11, 10-12, 11-5); the player who later in the fixture accounted for Yuto Kizukuri (8-11, 11-6, 13-11, 11-7). The remaining wins for Japan were secured in the second match of the engagement by Yuto Kizukuri in opposition to Baek Hogyun (11-7, 11-5, 11-6) and in the immediately ensuing contest by Masaki Takami against Kwak Yubin (11-8, 11-9, 14-12).
Success for Japan, earlier in the evening, it had been success for China and convincing success; they defeated Romania, the no.6 seeds, by three matches to nil.
Xue Fei beat Cristian Pletea (11-8, 11-9, 13-11) before Wang Chuqin accounted for Rares Sipos (11-5, 11-5, 11-3) to set the scene for Xu Haidong to conclude matters, he succeeded but not in the same commanding manner as his colleagues, he lost the first game against Dragos Florin Oprea, before recovering to win the next three (9-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-3).
“Of course there’s some pressure, especially because I really wanted to seal the third match victory for the team. My mentality in the first two games wasn’t good and he played some points that really exceeded my expectations; the first two games were tough. Towards the later part of the match, I was able to adjust accordingly. Mentally and tactically, I was more calm and better focused in the match, so the next games were easier for me.”
The final of the Boys’ Team event between Japan and China is scheduled for 7.00pm (local time) on Wednesday 29th November.