Zhou Qihao Wins China Olympic Scrimmage With 4-2 Upset Over Fan Zhendong
Zhou Qihao defeated Fan Zhendong 4-11, 11-8, 3-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-9 to complete his dark horse championship run at the China Olympic Scrimmage. Zhou notched earlier wins against Ma Long in the semi-finals and Liang Jingkun in the quarter-finals. After the win Zhou commented, “It wasn’t easy. Of course it feels good, but I cannot yet relax, because there are still more matches going forward. Beating Ma Long and Fan Zhendong is everyone’s dream, so it’s not easy, and I’m quite happy.”
Fan won the first game by a comfortable 11-4 margin. The two players were actually quite even on the rallies; if we want to find where Fan’s seven point advantage came from, consider the following: Zhou missed three chiquitas while Fan was able to land two winners with a chiquita. Furthermore, Fan got two net balls and won both points.
Zhou’s struggles to consistently land a chiquita continued as he missed another two early in the game. However, thanks to a lucky ball and a couple of aggressive step-around forehands that paid off, Zhou was able to maintain a 5-4 lead over the first nine points. Zhou then landed an impressive chop-block winner to expand the lead to 6-4. After Fan and Zhou exchanged missed backhand openings, Zhou won an impressive rally after a gutsy long fast serve to Fan, giving Zhou an 8-5 lead. After landing a short backhand winner and a daring step-around forehand attack on the long fast serve return, Zhou found himself up 10-5. Fan was able to score three points in a row to make things interesting, but he missed a hard backhand roll to give Zhou the second game 11-8.
Fan opened the game with strong anticipation as he correctly predicted the position of Zhou’s body and ball on three separate points while building up a 5-1 lead. The two exchanged points on several impressive rallies as Fan maintained a 7-3 lead. Over the next three points Fan then got a net ball, won a backhand-backhand rally, and then fooled Zhou with a surprisingly soft loop to the elbow to build an insurmountable 10-3 lead. Zhou then rushed a quick flick into the net on the serve return to give Fan the third game 11-3.
After his disastrous third game, Zhou shifted his strategy as he started stepping around for more risky forhenads on the long ball. As a result, he almost entirely stopped taking short serve returns with his backhand, instead opting to go for a heavy short-to-half-long push. This change in strategy turned out to be highly effective in the first half of the game as he built an 8-4 lead.
However, Fan landed a couple of down-the-line winners and Zhou started missing his step-around loop as Fan took five straight points despite a time-out from Zhou at 8-7. Up 9-8, it looked like Fan was going to make it six straight points when he forced Zhou to back off the table and start lobbing with the backhand. However, Zhou refused to miss any of his backhand lobs, and when an impatient Fan finally smashed to the forehand, Zhou landed a spinny counter-loop for the winner, leveling the score at 9-9.
Fan then pushed the ball into the net to go down 10-9 but saved game-point with another down-the-line winner. Zhou then got a lucky net ball when going for an ambitious forehand counter-loop from virtually below the table, giving himself an 11-10 lead. Fan then pushed the ball into the net again, giving Zhou the fourth game 12-10.
Zhou opened up an early 5-2 lead thanks to a creative chop block from the backhand and a surprise forehand chop from way behind the table on two consecutive points. However, Fan was able to claw back to 6-6 with his steady backhand. At 7-7, Fan landed a fast down the line backhand to Zhou’s forehand. Zhou had stepped around early and could only watch as the ball sailed by, giving Fan an 8-7 lead. However, Zhou leveled the score with a hard cross-court counterloop winner against Fan’s chiquita to the forehand and then took a 9-8 lead with a risky step-around forehand kill.
Fan called time-out, but after the time-out Zhou stepped around so hard that his body ended up doing a 360 degree spin for an all-or-nothing kill. Fan was unable to block the ball back, giving Zhou the 10-8 advantage. Fan then flicked the serve return out on the next point, giving Zhou the fifth game 11-8.
Fan was able to trap Zhou into controlled backhand-backhand rallies early in the game as he built up a 4-0 lead. However, Zhou was able to pull off an ace long serve and two hard instant backhand winners to help him level the score to 5-5. The two continued to exchange points until Fan was up 8-7. Zhou then executed a pretty chop block followed by a forehand kill and then two risky backhand kills in the middle of the rally to take double-championship point at 10-8. Fan was able to save the first championship point with a couple of wide blocks to either corner. However, his push on the next point was just a bit too long as Zhou landed a strong half-long opening to the elbow. Fan missed the block, giving Zhou the game 11-9 and the match 4-2.
The top three key points of the match are shown below:
The full match is shown below: