04 Aug 2018

Just under two years ago on Sunday 10th September in the city of Dongguan, at the 2016 Asia-Europe Cup, the host nation established a commanding lead on the opening day of play; a four matches to one outcome was the result in their favour.

Now two years later at the 2018 Asia-Europe All Star Challenge once again in China, this time in Nantong, when play concluded on the initial day of action on Saturday 4th August, the situation was just the same.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Represented by Chuang Chih-Yuan, Koki Niwa, Lee Sangsu, Wong Chun Ting and Zhang Jike a four-one win was recorded against the quintet comprising Marcos Freitas, Jonathan Groth, Kristian Karlsson, Vladimir Samsonov and Bastian Steger.

However, one is left to wonder and one will never know; had either or both of the initial two matches, each resolved in the full five games in favour of the home continent gone the other way, how very different the outcome might have been?

In the opening encounter Koki Niwa withstood a spirited recovery by Vladimir Samsonov, before eventually succeeding by the minimal two point margin in the fifth game (11-4, 11-8, 9-11, 6-11, 11-9). He was followed by Chuang Chih-Yuan who, in a second consecutive five games duel, performed a very similar feat against Jonathan Groth; he won the first two games, lost the next two, before securing the decider (14-12, 11-9, 7-11, 9-11, 11-6).

“I think today was a well-played match. I did not practise too much after the summer break. This is my first match. Unfortunately, I missed out in this important match. I did not receive service so well today. I am not satisfied with the result. I wish I could have won. I hope I can win tomorrow. I think on the paper Asia is favourite but I hope we can come back and get the five matches we need.” Jonathan Groth.

The momentum now with Asia, a most impressive performance by the all action Wong Chun Ting extended the lead; he beat Kristian Karlsson in three straight games (14-12, 11-4, 11-7); thus repeating recent successes in Saarbrücken and Halmstad.

“I played Kristian Karlsson at the 2016 World Cup and at this year’s World Team Championships. In today’s match, I think I performed well, especially when I was 6-10 behind in the first game. Managing to come back in the first game gave me confidence.” Wong Chun Ting

Asia three-nil ahead Marcos Freitas restored European honour and gave a ray of hope; he beat Lee Sangsu in four games (11-9, 10-12, 11-7, 11-9).

“Lee Sangsu is one of the best players in the world. He is a top ranked player. Last year he played really well. I had a good start; also I had very good serve and receive. Of course I felt nervous given that my team was three-nil down. The Asian team is very strong; at three-nil down, the pressure was on me. If I did not win my team could have finished the day five-nil down which is not good for tomorrow. So after I won, our hopes were still alive. We will fight more tomorrow.” Marcos Freitas

Success for Marcos Freitas but the only success; matters concluded with Zhang Jike showing signs of the form displayed when he became Olympic and World champion. He beat Bastian Steger in three straight games (11-2, 11-4, 14-12).

Now just as two years ago a monumental task faces Europe; in Dongguan they reduced the deficit to a six-four overall margin of defeat. The same in Nantong would be a creditable performance.

Play on the second day of action starts at 2.00pm (local time).

Day One – Saturday 4th August: Results

Koki Niwa (JPN) v Vladimir Samsonov (BLR) 11-4, 11-8, 9-11, 6-11, 11-9
Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE) v Jonathan Groth (DEN) 14-12, 11-9, 7-11, 9-11, 11-6
Wong Chun Ting (TPE) v Kristian Karlsson (SWE) 14-12, 11-4, 11-7
Lee Sangsu (KOR) v Marcos Freitas (POR) 9-11, 14-12, 7-11, 9-11
Zhang Jike (CHN) v Bastian Steger (GER) 11-2, 11-4, 14-12

Day Two – Sunday 5th August: Order of Play

Koki Niwa (JPN) v Bastian Steger (GER)
Zhang Jike (CHN) v Jonathan Groth (DEN)
Lee Sangsu (KOR) v Kristian Karlsson (SWE)
Wong Chun Ting (HKG) v Marcos Freitas (POR)
Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE) v Vladimir Samsonov (BLR)

General News 2018 Asia-Europe All Star Challenge Koki Niwa Chuang Chih-Yuan