by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Defeat for Hugo Calderano but it was a performance of which himself and his mentor sitting courtside, Jean-René Mounié could be justly proud; the 21 year old from Rio de Janeiro, now based at TTF Liebherr Ochsenhausen in Germany, acquitted himself most admirably.
On more than one occasion he caused Fan Zhendong to look around quizzically at coach, Wang Hao, as Hugo Calderano posed problems with clever service variations and a strong backhand to wide to his adversary’s forehand.
However, as always Fan Zhendong proved safe and secure, staying close the table at every opportunity he controlled the major stages of the contest. Hugo Calderano fought for the cause, he captured the second after leading 10-7 and taking a “Time Out” at 10-9; in the fourth game there was a ray of hope as the two gladiators stood level at 7-all, a stage of the match which underlined the quality of Fan Zhendong and the difference between the two players.
Nothing exuberant just totally efficient, Fan Zhendong staying close, secured the game, in the fifth he gained an early lead; more relaxed, he exuded confidence but did he experience a brief lack of concentration? Hugo Calderano, to his great credit, never blinked an eyelid, he battled, he reduced the deficit to four points at 9-5, Fan Zhendong called “Time Out”. Words from Wang Hao, Fan Zhendong, now totally focused completed the task.
“I had to adapt quickly to his speed over the table and changes of the placement of his serves. Once I managed to find my rhythm, I was able to control this match.” Fan Zhendong
“We are very happy with the overall performance in the competition where he had plenty of good wins. There are many positives to take home and of course a bronze medal; his game is developing in the right way. Maybe there was little bit more in this match. Looking at the big picture we have a bright future ahead.” Jean-René Mounié
Success for Fan Zhendong in five games, in the counterpart semi-final it was success for Wang Chuqin in one game less; the crucial game being fifth won by the narrowest of margins.
Throughout Wang Chuqin controlled his emotions, subtle changes of service, controlled play, creating angles from the backhand and excelling close to the table. He is a modern day Wang Tao but with smooth reversed rubber on the backhand, not short pimples and perhaps with a few less kilos.
Wang Tao also has a reputation as a very good singer and at the end of the match Wang Chuqin also stretched his vocal chords in delight, perhaps not in tune but his play was certainly in a very good rhythm.
“I am really happy I have made it to the final as I am very young I did not think I would reach the final. My head was full of thoughts it was really hard to stay focused. We played an amazing match where the difference was marginal and the standard was very high. I hope I can reach this high level in the final too.” Wang Chuqin
The final of the Men’s Singles event concludes the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open and is scheduled for the late afternoon of Sunday 21st January.