by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
There is no doubting the talent of Lin Gaoyuan but after his defeats from winning positions against colleague, Xu Xin at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships earlier this year and similarly when facing Germany’s Timo Boll at the Liebherr Men’s World Cup, on both occasions spurning a string of match points when having a commanding lead, there are question marks over the mental qualities of the 22 year old.
In Astana the questions were not answered; further sitting courtside in the role of coach was Liu Guozheng, one of the most mentally strong players who ever laid racket on ball.
Lin Gaoyuan made the better start, in the opening game, he went ahead 7-3, he never relinquished the advantage; in the second he trailed 3-5 as Dimitrij Ovtcharov appeared set to provide an instant response. It was not to be the scenario, Lin Guoyan secured the next seven points, securing matters on his second game point.
Conversely, in the third game, Dimitrij Ovtcharov was 3-5 in arrears. He elected for “Time Out” and recovered to level at 7-all as Lin Guoyuan became impetuous. The game was secured by the minimum two point margin before in the fourth, Lin Guoyuan again made the better start. He went ahead 5-1, Dimitrij Ovtcharov levelled at 5-all before securing the game as Lin Gaoyuan became hesitant.
Gaining in confidence, Dimitrij Ovtcharov secured the fifth game before at full steam Lin Gaoyuan prevailed in the sixth. At the change of ends in the decider, Dimitrij Ovtcharov led 5-3, Lin Gaoyuan levelled at 6-all but never gained a lead.
At 10-8 Dimitrij Ovtcharov held two match points; both were saved before at the third attempt he converted.
“I think right now I’m on the crest of a wave, everything is coming together, confidence, luck, it’s also important sometimes in sports. Lin Gaoyuan played so strong in the beginning, I had no chance at all. However, I played one point at a time and was always looking for my chance. I learned from my friend Timo that you should never give up and he showed me how it’s done. At 10-8 in the decider, he served twice long and the first one was a pity but the second one I thought it was my point but it was out, I was actually very disappointed. I put faith in my own hands. I gave it all and success was on my side.” Dimitrij Ovtcharov
“I’m excited for the final match against Fan Zhendong, I think he’s the favourite, but I shot him the last time in Germany and I will get into tomorrow’s match with fun and confidence and I will enjoy it.”
Fan Zhendong now awaits in the final, a repeat of the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour German Open semi-final encounter earlier this year when on that occasion Dimitrij Ovtcharov had won in seven games (13-11, 11-7, 7-11, 3-11, 11-9, 8-11, 15-13); a mouth-watering final awaits.