05 Oct 2019

Stay calm, stay focused, accept the fact that your opponent might just produce something out of the blue that leaves you stranded and bemused but not let that bolt of lightning deter you from your avowed goal; at the current 2019 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open in Stockholm those characteristics are being displayed to the full by China’s Wang Chuqin.

On the morning of Saturday 5th October, at the quarter-final stage of the men’s singles event, he beat compatriot and likewise qualifier, Zhao Zihao in four straight games (11-6, 11-6, 11-7, 11-5).

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Safely through the qualification stage, we had seen Zhao Zihao beat the host nation’s Mattias Falck, the no.6 seed (16-18, 11-9, 10-12, 11-7, 13-11, 11-7), followed by success in opposition to Korea Republic’s Jang Woojin, the no.10 seed (11-9, 11-9, 4-11, 11-13, 11-9, 11-2.

In both contests we witnessed dynamic, exciting rallies, power play. The conclusion was basically that overall Zhao Zihao stayed closer to the table than his opponent, returned service in a most adept manner with his pen-hold grip style of play but most significantly was a few miles per hour too fast.

Never allowed to play

Against Wang Chuqin he was never permitted to exert those skills. The words of the English star of yesteryear, Desmond Douglas rang in my ears. Like the 19 year old from Jilin Province, he was a left hander who played close to the table and created angles from the backhand that left adversaries flat footed, time and again; he kept his adversary “quiet”. Wang Chuqin did exactly the same, he silenced Zhao Zihao, he never allowed him to play.

Earlier in the tournament it had been the very same when, in the main draw, confronting Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson, the no.16 seed (11-6, 11-6, 11-9, 8-11, 7-11, 11-4) and one round later, Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto, the no.4 seed (11-5, 11-4, 12-10, 11-4).

Now three in a row

Notably, one year ago at the Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games, Wang Chuqin had beaten Tomokazu Harimoto in the men’s singles final but had lost in the ensuing mixed team gold medal engagement. Most pertinently, this year Wang Chuqin has now won all three encounters; prior to today, he prevailed on the ITTF World Tour in Australia and in the Korea Republic.

“I think I played at a faster tempo than Zhao Zihao; when I play opponents like Kristian Karlsson, Tomkasu Harimoto, Zhao Zihao and Germany’s Patrick Franziska, they tend to be more powerful than me and are better in the rallies, so I try to use my technical skills to overcome their strengths. Against such players I try to win the points quickly.” Wang Chuqin

Everything is comparative, Wang Chuqin is most adept in the rallies; there are few better but of course we are considering the very highest levels.

Serve and receive

Wang Chuqin is outstanding in the area of service and receive, an expert at executing the modern day so called “banana” backhand return of service; forearm vertical, wrist circumnavigating the ball. Vitally, he is strong on the opening attacking strokes, the first three strokes in a rally; just against Zhao Zihao, the number rarely reached three.

Equally, Wang Chuqin is a somewhat laid back character, there is emotion but it is quite reserved, quiet confidence and although still a teenager he has competed in two massive matches where the pressure cooker is turned to maximum.

In addition to gold at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, earlier this year he partnered Ma Long to success in the men’s doubles event at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships; still a teenager he has played in two major finals.

“Certainly both those finals have helped my confidence, helped mentally.” Wang Chuqin.

Success in showpiece finals but for Wang Chuqin an ITTF World Tour men’s singles title has to date proved elusive. Last year and this year he was the runner up in Hungary, the same fate three months ago in Australia; in Stockholm can he climb the next step?

The door is open, moreover, he is a young man in form.

World Tour 2019 Swedish Open Wang Chuqin

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Day 1 - 2019 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open