22 Dec 2019

A quarter-final defeat at the hands of China’s Fan Zhendong, the champion elect, on Saturday 14th December at the Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Zhengzhou, the outcome very much reflected the year experienced by Brazil’s Hugo Calderano.

It was a result as anticipated. It was according to status; the last eight, another consistent performance.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

The year for the 23 year old from Rio de Janeiro was very much one of consolidation; he had ended 2018, named at no.6 on the world rankings, when the listings for December 2019 were announced, it was exactly the same.

He had proved he was worthy of being reckoned amongst the elite of the sport; he had underlined the fact a player from beyond the boundaries of the traditional continents of Asia and Europe could compete at the very highest levels. Moreover, could compete consistently at the very highest level; his three year progress, a rise in the rankings from no.54 at the start of the 2016 Olympic Games staged in the city of his birth, was no fluke.

There were no headline making wins as there had been at the 2018 Grand Finals when beating Fan Zhendong; conversely there were no major unexpected defeats.

Progress to the fourth round of the men’s singles event in April at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships, losing to the eventual winner, China’s Ma Long, was a noteworthy achievement in the major event on the year’s calendar. Again, as in Zhengzhou, the headmaster’s report was very good, more than satisfactory.

Most important event

However, if you are Brazilian, there was one competition in the year that was of a higher value; the Pan American Games staged in Lima in early August. It was in the Peruvian capital city that Hugo Calderano experienced the biggest test of the year.

There is no doubt about the young man’s ability but to succeed you must be mentally tough. One of the major tests for mental strength is when you are the favourite, the country’s honour is at stake and you have a major challenger of high repute. Moreover, win and you have booked your Olympic Games ticket.

In Lima, in the men’s singles final, Hugo Calderano faced the Dominican Republic’s Wu Jiaji, a young man who, in the colours of China in 2010, had been a semi-finalist at the World Junior Championships. He was a player on whom China had high hopes.

Focused, professional, in seven games, Hugo Calderano prevailed; his strong mental attitude underlined. Just as earlier in the year in February at the Universal 2019 Pan American Cup in Guaynabo, Hugo Calderano delivered.

Crowd response

Outwardly, there was the humble smile, a wave of gratitude and the back somersault to celebrate.

The response endeared him to the crowd, just as throughout the year he endeared himself the public at large, both within and beyond Brazilian frontiers. It was a fact underlined on Tuesday 10th December.

Located in Barra da Tijuca, the area of Rio de Janeiro that was the focal point for the 2016 Olympic Games; watched on national television by hundreds of thousands of Brazilians nationwide, in the Cidade das Artes (City of Arts), Hugo Calderano was voted the fans’ favourite.

A hero

Table tennis in Brazil now has a star that permeates the borders of the sport. In the modern era, the late Claudio Kano and more recently Hugo Hoyama spearheaded Brazil’s efforts in the world’s major table tennis arenas with great dignity. Now their efforts have been surpassed; Brazil has a sporting celebratory.

You can run a million and one coaches courses, stage introductory sessions to attract new players to sport, all have their value but nothing replaces an icon, nothing replaces a star name.

Record entry

Nowhere was this more evident than at the Brazilian National Championships staged in São Paulo from Wednesday 11th to Sunday 15th December.

No Hugo Calderano, he was busy in Zhengzhou; Vitor Ishiy won the men’s singles title; the counterpart women’s crown was donned by Jessica Yamada. Important facts but arguably the most important of all was the entry.

A full range of events is an understatement, para and veteran competitions were included in an itinerary of 49 singles and 55 team events! Over 1,000 players competed.

It was the biggest Brazilian National Championships ever, a new horizon – the Calderano effect!

General News Hugo Calderano