26 Dec 2018

Staged from Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th February, the Copper Box Arena located in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, was the venue for the 2018 ITTF Team World Cup; the event maintained the established traditions of the tournament but there was both change and innovation.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games very much on the horizon, it was a major opportunity to test a new order of play.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Instead of the doubles being the third contest, as in the system used since the Men’s Team and Women’s Team events were introduced at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, it was the first.

Thus once the doubles pairs were announced, the order of play could be inscribed and no need for a break in play after the third match of a fixture in order to facilitate the situation where a player could be required to compete in consecutive matches. The response from the players, I heard no negatives; quite simply the guarded comment that it is necessary to adapt. Now good players adapt; the test passed with flying colours.

Also, the presentation of the event passed with flying colours, as British Airways provided staff to escort the players into the arena. New innovations all added to the occasion but one fact remained very much the same, both titles finished in the hands of China, the men won for the seventh consecutive time, the women for the eighth.

The result meant that in the now eleven editions of the tournament, China has won the Women’s title on ten occasions, the only exception being in 1994 in Nîmes when they had to settle for bronze as Russia emerged the champions. Meanwhile, for the Men, it was win number nine; the exceptions being in 1995 in Atlanta when the Korea Republic prevailed and in the 1990 in Chiba, when the verdict went in favour of Sweden.

Success for China and also there was success for the host nation, success on more than one front; not only did Table Tennis England present a superb event, the Men’s Team responded and thoroughly deserved their fly past, their lap of honour. Selecting Paul Drinkhall, Liam Pitchford and Sam Walker throughout, Tom Jarvis and David McBeath being resigned to the bench, they reached the semi-final round losing three-nil to China’s Fan Zhendong, Ma Long and Xu Xin.

They added a sense of national pride to the occasion; they endorsed the fact that the bronze medal won at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur was no fluke.

It was only the second time in the Team World Cup when England had reached the penultimate round; the one other occasion being in the very first in 1990 when Chen Xinhua, Alan Cooke and Desmond Douglas was the preferred trio, Skylet Andrew being resigned to bench duty.

Likewise, just as in London, it had been a three-nil defeat in the penultimate round; they were beaten by the Swedish trio of Jan-Ove Waldner, Jörgen Persson and Erik Lindh.

Now those three Swedes at their peak versus Ma Long and company; that would be interesting, place your bets!

2018 Review of Year China England