by Ian Marshall, Editor
A surprise finalist, moreover from a player who defies modern day thinking; short pimpled rubber on the forehand, shake-hands grip; the last player to use that grip and that material successfully was Canada’s Johnny Huang, some 25 years. Adopting the pen-hold style and using the short pimpled rubber on the forehand, the last great exponent was Liu Guoliang, crowned world champion 20 years ago in Eindhoven.
Simply Mattias Falck the no.16 seed, had defied ranking and modern day thinking!
“Of course I was nervous. This was a huge match. I am so proud to be in the final and to see my name among so many greats of Swedish table tennis. An Jaehyune is a very strong and smart player. In the sixth game he changed his tactics and he put me under big pressure. I had to adjust and to change my game, to be more aggressive. I tried but it did not pay off at the beginning of the seventh game. He was up 4-2. I missed few points I should put on the table.
“I don’t have any words to describe my feelings. I just tried to focus on every ball and one ball at a time. I also kept working hard in the match. Getting to the final is just unbelievable for me and for my country. I am so happy to have performed well in this competition. My coach has been in this situation before and he just told me to keep calm and focus on the next ball. I think my marriage has helped my performance in the last year; my wife has been very supportive back home.” Mattias Falck
Pressure, Mattias Falck handled the pressure to become the first Swede to reach a men’s singles final at a World Championships since Jan-Ove Waldner won in 1997 in Manchester.
Pressure but if any member of the group was under pressure it was surely Ma Long; for rest securing a medal whatever the colour, win or lose, was beyond original expectation. Equally, was the player with the least burden was Liang Jingkun? He was playing the defending champion and whatever the outcome China would be in the final, thus the onus of national responsibility was not on his shoulders.
Time and again we have seen Ma Long lose a game and then steamroller his way to victory; the prime example was against Brazil’s Hugo Calderano in round three, he lost the opening, won a close second and the accelerated. Against Liang Jingkun, who seems totally unaffected by any occasion whether the local club championships or the biggest stage on earth, if one player looked nervous it was Ma Long. At no stage was he able to establish a commanding lead.
An arched back and cry of joy after winning the last point, was it one of joy or of relief that a difficult hurdle had been negotiated and whoever he met in the final, he was the odds on favourite?
“I was active throughout the match; I think I played very well. No matter the opponent in the final, I think it is both an opportunity and challenge; I’m ready for the challenge” Ma Long
The challenge awaits, it is Mattias Falck.