by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Tin-Tin Ho gave England the best possible start, she beat Melissa Tapper in five games (11-4, 8-11, 11-3, 7-11, 11-8); a contest where her pen-hold grip attacking style using short pimpled rubber on the forehand, eventually prevailed against the shake-hands grip top spin technique of Melissa Tapper.
Matters level at one game apiece, in the third game, Tin-Tin Ho made a quite incredible start, she won the first nine points before Melissa Tapper responded. Back in a rhythm with her top spin play, Melissa Tapper secured to fourth game but then in the fifth, once again Tin-Tin Ho made an electric start. At the change of ends she led 5-1, she won the next point, prompting Miao Miao, the player coach to call “Time Out”.
Perhaps the call for the break should have been earlier in the game; however the pause did have an effect; Melissa Tapper reduced the deficit to three points at 6-3, prompting an England “Time Out” call. It was a prudent move, at 10-7, Tin-Tin Ho held three match points; the first was saved, not the second, it was advantage England.
“Against Melissa it was difficult to win the rallies, her forehand top spin is strong and when she is in a rhythm, she is very good. I had to try to win the points quickly.” Tin-Tin Ho
Nerves jangling; it was even more so in the ensuing contest between Kelly Sibley and Jian Fang Lay. Eventually Jian Fang Lay beat Kelly Sibley in five games (5-11, 21-19, 5-11, 11-6, 11-7), the second game a titanic struggle. Kelly Sibley led 9-5, Jian Fang Lay reduced the deficit to 9-8, England called “Time Out”; eventually after both players had saved game points, Jian Fang Lay prevailed.
Positive, Kelly Sibley responded to win the third game, in the fourth she went ahead 4-1, Jian Fang Lay elected for “Time Out”. She recovered, she went ahead 10-6, secured the game before in the deciding fifth establishing a 5-2 lead at the change of ends. Fighting for the cause, the English player levelled at 6-all but never held the lead. It was parity.
Throughout both matches, Maria Tsaptsinos had been jumping up and down, screaming encouragement, fist in the air ready to take on the whole of Australia; now for the one woman supporters club, it was her turn to play.
It was just the situation in which she revelled. The advantage was with Australia or so it seemed; Jian Fang Lay and Miao Miao were very much the established and moreover experienced pair. Kelly Sibley and Maria Tsaptsinos were not overawed; quite the reverse, they were ready for the fight, a four games win in their favour was the order of the day (11-2, 9-11, 11-9, 11-7); when the last point was secured, the leap in the air performed by Maria Tsaptsinos would have win high jump gold.
“I watched Kelly’s match; I knew how Jian Fang Lay would play, so I was prepared. At one game all and down 4-8 I thought we were going to lose. We just kept fighting.” Maria Tspatsinos
“Partnering Maria in the doubles, she was just what I needed, she has so much energy. I had lost the close match to Jian Fang Lay, I needed her energy. She played great, especially her forehand fading wide to Jian Fang Lay’s backhand. Our tactic when playing against Jian Fang Lay was to play wide.” Kelly Sibley
The success was a massive boost for England but again in the next contest was Miao Miao not the favourite against Tin-Tin Ho.
Tin-Tin Ho won the first game, lost the second before winning a close third, a game in which Miao Miao gained the wrath of the umpire for allegedly taking too long to serve. Tin-Tin Ho won the game before in the fourth holding match point at 10-9. Miao Miao recovered, she won the next three points.
Maintaining her composure, Tin-Tin Ho established a 5-2 lead in the decisive fifth game, it was a telling lead, it was never relinquished; a contest high drama finished in total anti-climax. Miao Miao served into the net.
Tin-Tin Ho for a split second was stunned then led by cheerleader Maria Tsaptsinos, England celebrated.
“In the fourth game against Miao Miao when I lost the match point, at the change of ends I just thought to myself that I could have lost the previous game. Whenever possible I tried to play with a lot of top spin from by backhand with my first attack.” Tin-Tin Ho
Cho! fantastic, happy days; my first Commonwealth Games, my first medal, fantastic.” Maria Tsaptsinos
Success for England and a medal in the Women’s Team event at the Commonwealth Games for the first time ever, history in Gold Coast!