by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Exercising exquisite hand skills that enabled delicate short play, Jonathan Groth, captured the opening game by the minimal two point margin, after having led 10-7; Fan Zhendong recovered to win the second game but, as in the first, the Dane established a 10-7 advantage in the third.
Only this time he was not able to convert; Fan Zhendong raised the level, he won four points in a row, the tide had turned. Jonathan Groth never wilted, he narrowed the deficit in the fifth game to one point in arrears at 6-7 forcing Wang Hao, the Chinese national team coach on duty, to call “Time Out”. Taking risks, producing stunning top spin strokes, Jonathan Groth levelled then went ahead 10-8; alas from the Danish perspective he was not able to take full advantage.
“I made too many mistakes in the first game. I have never played Groth before; he has his very own style, it took time to adapt.” Fan Zhendong
Success for Fan Zhendong was followed by success for Xu Xin, a contest in which the players were too familiar with each other to produce a high number of exciting, scintillating rallies.
The first two games were shared, Zhou Yu withstanding a trademark Xu Xin recovery in the second game. He established a 7-2 lead, Xu Xin fought back to narrow the deficit to one point at 9-8; Zhou Yu called “Time Out”. Xu Xin levelled at 9-all but could not complete the recovery.
Hard fought, Zhou Yu making every effort to nullify the long dangerous Xu Xin forehand, he forced errors from his more senior adversary but at 10-7 in favour of Xu Xin in the sixth game, it seemed the curtain was to close. Contrary to expectations, Zhou Yu won the next five points; a deciding seventh game beckoned.
At the change of ends in the seventh game Xu Xin led 5-3. It was to prove decisive at 10-4 Xu Xin held six match points, Zhou Yu won the next point, Xu Xin called “Time Out”. Zhou Yu saved three further match points but at 10-8 Xu Xin converted.
In the penultimate round Xu Xin meets Fan Zhendong.