China swept every title on offer at the Volkswagen World Junior Table Tennis championships 2012 that concluded at the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh indoor stadium on Sunday. Fan Zhendong emerged the boys’ singles champion, while Zhu Yuling walked away with the laurels on the girls’ side.
The boys’ final was a left-right affair, a tussle between compatriots in all respects, since both Gaoyuan and Zhendong are natives of Guangdong province. Close to the table, the two being equal, the former ‘drove’ the latter backwards. Zhendong revealed frailty in the long range returns but not too often.
Zhendong showed no signs of stagefright, although it was his first appearance in a final at this level, while it was Gaoyuan’s third. A product of the army establishment, evident from his closed cropped hair when compared to his rival’s little longer locks, Zhendong would have suspected there lay a long road ahead, a path he was only too willing to take.
Consistency to the fore
Zhendong consciously moved forward from game three. With his booming backhand loop drive, easily his strongest stroke, the right-hander turned things around. If his timing seemed deficient at the start, his consistency came to the fore subsequently, displayed amply in both his dynamic and compact smashes.
In the fourth game, Zhendong had Gaoyuan on the run, the southpaw seemingly returning everything hurled at him, until the former decided on a drop. If the crossover point is an Achilles heel for most, Zhendong simply smothered everything directed there with agility par excellence, his trunk tilted sideways to intercept each such effort, if not let loose his own thunderbolts from there.
No apparent chinks
No chinks were easily visible in the Chinese armour, with all semi-finalists, but for Germay’s Petrissa Solja, hailing from the world’s ping pong super power, each equipped with repertoires replete with sublime skill.
Since both hailed from the mainland, they let her hair down a bit, allowing themselves the rare show of emotion in the form of a smile or a sigh of disappointment. Yuling called the tune though, her cross court counter drives brooking little resistance.
The failure to curb the natural flamboyance that left-handers are endowed with could have been Yuting’s undoing.
The efficiently executed week-long event’s emotional highs were reached on Saturday when Simon Gauzy, after being 3-2 up, crashed to defeat against Chinese penholder Fan Shengpeng, leading to heart-rending tears from the Frenchman.
So was the diminutive Mima Ito inconsolable on her loss to Bernadette Szocs. The Japanese paddler, at 12 years of age was the youngest in the arena, found defeat hard to digest, all the toys tucked away in her kit bag lying unattended, presenting a poignant picture.
Boys: Singles: Final: Fan Zhendong bt Lin Gaoyuan (both China) 10-12, 7-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-8, 11-4. Semifinals: Fan Zhendong bt Fan Shengpeng (both China) 11-5, 11-6, 11-6, 4-11, 11-4, Xu Chenhao lost to Lin Gaoyuan (both China) 4-11, 12-14, 11-7, 7-11, 11-7, 11-5, 6-11. Doubles: Lin Gaoyuan & Xu Chenhao bt Fan Shengpeng & Fan Zhendong (both China) 11-8, 11-9, 11-5, 11-6.
Girls: Singles: Final: Zhu Yuling bt Gu Yuting (both China) 11-6, 11-5, 11-9, 11-8. Semifinals: Zhu Yuling (Chn) bt Petrissa Solja (Ger) 12-10, 11-8, 11-7, 11-7, Gu Ruochen lost to Gu Yuting (both China) 9-11, 8-11, 11-9, 9-11, 5-11. Doubles: Final: Gu Yuting & Zhu Yuling bt Gu Ruochen & Liu Gaoyang 8-11, 11-5, 5-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-4
Mixed doubles: Final: Fan Zhendong & Liu Gaoyang bt Lin Gaoyuan & Gu Ruochen (both China) 4-11, 4-11, 12-10, 4-11, 11-9, 13-11, 11-9.