Tournaments

30 Mar 2019

A quarter-final defeat on the afternoon of Saturday 30th March for He Zhuojia at the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open in Doha; she was beaten by colleague Sun Yingsha, likewise a player who had been required to compete in the qualification tournament. It was defeat in six games (6-11, 11-4, 11-4, 11-8, 11-5).

Earlier in the day Sweden’s Mattias Falck, the no.12 seed, had caused a major upset at the same stage of men’s singles event; he had beaten Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto, the no.3 seed (11-8, 9-11, 11-1, 11-6, 8-11, 3-11, 11-5).

by Ian Marshall, Editor

In an era, when the vast majority of players on the international scene are very much the same; the differences being comparatively subtle, they are different.

Reversed smooth rubber on both sides of the racket, or in some instances short pimpled rubber on the backhand; Mattias Falck uses the short pimpled rubber on the forehand, He Zhuojia employs rather long pimpled rubber on the backhand.

Much water has flown under the bridge since players using those materials have succeeded at the very highest levels. We must go back to 1999 in Eindhoven when China’s Liu Guoliang won the men’s singles title at a World Championships; meanwhile for the women we turn the clock back two years further. In 1997 Deng Yaping, also from China, prevailed in Manchester.

Once in Chinese circles, the phrase touted was “let a thousand flowers blossom”, implying that a whole range of styles should be encouraged. Now in the Chinese women’s national team that will journey to Budapest, every member uses the reversed smooth rubber on either side of the racket; there is no defender, there is no pen-holder, no player using the combination style racket.

There is no place for He Zhuojia, a player who last December she beat Korea Republic’s Suh Hyowon, Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa and colleague Ding Ning to reach the title deciding contest in the women’s singles event at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Incheon. Eventually, Chen Meng, likewise from China halted progess.

Does that performance and that of Mattias Falck in Doha not underline the fact that there is still scope in the modern era for different styles even though the ball is 40 millimetres in diameter and made of plastic?

Can Mattias Falck maintain the run of progress in Budapest and prove a point; however, judging by the performances in Doha, the Chinese will blossom in Hungary but it will only be one flower.

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