by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Guided by the astute Liu Jiayi, the national coach, most impressively he beat Eugene Wang in three straight games (11-8, 11-9, 11-5) in the second match of the fixture, before in the vital fifth and deciding contest proving far too safe and secure for Antoine Bernadet who was confronting an adversary from a different level.
Not a flicker of emotion, true to his stable character, Gao Ning accounted for Antoine Bernadet in three straight games (11-6, 11-7, 11-4); a most efficient and professional performance had been completed.
“Gao Ning was very good today; the last time he played Eugene Wang, it was three-two in the French League. Today he was strong from the backhand, very positive but also being able to change and control his opponent’s attacking play.” Liu Jiayi
The win against Eugene Wang was vital; in the opening match of the fixture, Pang Xue Jie had been beaten by Marko Medjugorac in a close seven games contest that ebbed and flowed (5-11, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 12-10); that result meant a Gao Ning master class was crucial for Singaporean aspirations.
“Pang Xue Jie played too safe, he didn’t follow up his first attack strongly; too often he was away from the table. He needed to stay closer and be more positive.” Liu Jiayi
Defeat for Pang Xue Jie in his opening contest but he redeemed himself. He partnered Ethan Poh Shao Feng to doubles success against Antoine Bernadet and Marko Medjugorac (11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 11-8); looking at the two matches to follow, that win secured a Singaporean success.
In the next match on court, Eugene Wang accounted for Ethan Poh Shao Feng (11-6, 11-7, 11-8) but with Gao Ning to follow it was very much a token gesture.
A full distance five match win for Singapore, on the adjacent court India recorded an impressive three-nil win in opposition to Malaysia.
Harmeet Desai gave India the perfect start by beating Leong Chee Feng, a player who had impressed on the first two days, notably the previous evening beating Scotland’s Gavin Rumgay in a five games classic (12-10, 7-11, 8-11, 11-8, 12-10). Against Harmeet Desai it was a very different proposition, a straight games verdict was the order of the day (11-4, 12-10, 11-6).
“It was my first singles match in the tournament; I’d played two doubles matches and won but not a singles. Before the match I was a bit nervous; last night he’d beaten Gavin Rumgay, so I knew he was a strong player. I played aggressively, I focused on directing my attacking play towards his middle and backhand; in the first game I won the first nine points, from that moment he was under pressure.” Harmeet Desai
Success for Harmeet Desai was followed by success for Sharath Kamal Achanta against Muhammad Ashraf Haiq Muhamad Rizal (11-8, 11-7, 11-6), before Harmeet Desai returned to the action to partner Sathiyan Gnanasekaran to doubles success against Javen Choong and Chee Feng Leong (11-7, 11-6, 11-7).
India now meets Singapore at the semi-final stage; the fixture is scheduled for Monday 9th April, the day on which the Men’s Team event will be played to a conclusion.