TABLE TENNIS / The winner left the Japanese looking inexperienced
China underscored its position as super power sans pareil at the Volkswagen World junior table tennis championships at the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh indoor stadium here on Wednesday.
For its girls, it was a perfect 10, having won every edition of the global event to date, while it was the ninth for the boys. For the record, China’s girls conquered Japan 3-0, while the boys got the better of the same opponent 3-1.
With focus unflinching and better mental preparedness, the Chinese left the Japanese looking inexperienced, if not feeble.
The sole spectre of resistance came from Asuka Sakai, who vanquished Chenhao Xu in a contest that went the distance, while Miyu Maeda and Yuto Muramatsu managed to wrest a game each.
In the fourth and deciding rubber, Fan Zhendong slammed the brakes on his otherwise staccato style.
For, his adversary was no ordinary one — world no. 2 Yuto Muramatsu, the tournament’s top gun too.
Clever variations in the line of play from Zhendong had the champion chopper, his playing elbow heavily strapped in plaster, foxed frequently.
A slugfest of forehand loop drives between Zhendong and Masaki Yoshida gave enough indication that the first boys’ singles would be hotly contested.
If Yoshida scored through his elegant backhand flicks, Fan targeted his rival’s crossover point, often landing the spoils.
In phenomenal touch
Zhendong was in phenomenal touch, his point of contact with the ball precise, be it with the loop, push or float.
Add to this superior fitness, agility and above all confidence and the Chinese lad was a winner all the way at 11-9, 11-5, 11-7.
Pitting Lin Gaoyuan against Muramatsu proved to be a masterstroke.
If the former’s drives from both flanks were nagging in accuracy, the latter’s legendary prowess in defence seemed fraught with frailties, especially his positioning in the line of fire.
In a quite shocking verdict, the tall Japanese lad went down tamely 3-11, 9-11, 4-11.
The diminutive Mima Ito proved more than a handful for Zhu Yuling.
The former kept the latter on her toes, varying her line of play, backed by some rapid fire counter attacks.
The sprightly Japanese girl’s vigorously attacking game came with its attendant flaws, especially when the ball went wide.
Control over speed
Yuling opted for control over speed and reaped the benefits. With sound return of serves, the Chinese paddler simply let her block do the trick, often ricocheting back with added pace.
Yuting Gu relentlessly attacked the extremes when pitted against the highly defensive Ayuka Tanioka.
The latter, built in the classical chopper mould, couldn’t position herself optimally soon enough or provide herself enough space to successfully blunt the down-the-line rocket-fire that Yuting dished out.
Miyu Maeda with strong double flank play wrested her first game against Ruochen Gu 11-9, the latter recovering the next with an identical scoreline.
If Maeda seemed in a hurry to close out the points, Gu maintained consistency with speed and accuracy, which adversely affected the former.
Juniors: Boys: China bt Japan 3-1 (Fan Zhendong bt Masaki Yoshida 11-9, 11-5, 11-7; Lin Gaoyuan bt Yuto Muramatsu 11-3, 11-9, 11-4; Chenhao Xu lost to Asuka Sakai 11-6, 11-13, 6-11, 11-7, 9-11; Fan Zhendong bt Yuto Muramatsu 11-6, 7-11, 11-7, 11-6).
Girls: China bt Japan 3-0 (Zhu Yuling bt Mima Ito 11-6, 13-11, 11-3; Gu Yuting bt Ayuka Tanioka 11-9, 11-8, 11-3; Ruochen Gu bt Miyu Maeda 9-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-4).