by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
He beat China’s Xu Haidong, the no.7 seed, in four straight games (11-8, 11-9, 12-10, 11-7); he looked increasingly assured as he gradually assumed control.
“He does not play that strong, he doesn’t play with power, he plays with control but his style of play really suited me. I was able to let him top spin from the backhand and then punch the ball hard with my backhand down the line to his forehand. Playing someone from China you expect them to move around their backhand and play a strong forehand, he doesn’t do that, he opens with the backhand, safe but not powerful. I felt comfortable receiving service; in previous matches today my forehand hasn’t been that good but now in this match it was fine and playing with my forehand to his backhand was successful.” Truls Moregard
Defeat for Xu Haidong but not for his colleagues Xue Fei, Wang Chuqin and Niu Guankai.
Xue Fei, the top seed, ended the hopes of the host nation by beating Matteo Mutti, a young man who on the penultimate day of action had exceeded all expectations by reaching the round of the last eight. However, despite as most spirited effort, a possible semi-final place was a step too far; Xue Fei emerged successful in five games (11-5, 11-5, 11-6, 9-11, 11-5).
Comfortable for Xue Fei, it was very similar for Wang Chuqin, the no.5 seed but not for Niu Guankai, the no.3 seed. Wang Chuqin beat Belgian qualifier, Florian Cnudde in five games (11-2, 11-3, 9-11, 11-7, 11-6); as for Niu Guankai, he looked down. He trailed by three games to one and was down 3-7 in the fifth against Korea’s An Jaehyun, the no.8 seed. Eventually, he recovered to record a seven games win (10-12, 11-8, 5-11, 7-11, 14-12, 11-9, 11-6).
The fact that Niu Guankai is so safe from the backhand whilst An Jaehyun is somewhat forehand orientated proved a vital factor. Niu Guankai was able to force his adversary out of position and sometimes off balance.
“At the start I was playing a little panicky because I was facing a Korean and he was playing very aggressively, it was after I was 3-7 down in the fifth game when I became more calm. I started playing closer to the table, whilst also being bolder in the rallies and more aggressive. In the match, I tried to direct my backhand into his body, he leans back trying to step around to play his forehand, then I played wide to the forehand then back to his backhand, by then he was moving further away from the table and I would attack after few blocks. In terms of my overall techniques, my backhand is still relatively stronger; I tend to use more backhands in my play and forehand mainly when playing strongly.” Niu Guankai
Now that Chinese player who has the same birthday as Truls Moregard, is his strength not his backhand and has it not brought him the biggest titles on offer.
At the semi-final stage Xue Fei plays Wang Chuqin, Niu Guankai opposes Truls Moregard.
The Boys’ Singles event will be played to a conclusion on Sunday 3rd December, the closing day of action in Riva del Garda.