Monthly Archives: July 2021

Olympics Day 3 Results: Lily Zhang Slow Spins Past Offiong Edem

USA’s Lily Zhang received a brief scare as she failed to adjust to Nigeria’s Offiong Edem’s tricky serves and deceptively slow pace and lost the first game of their round of 64 match-up in the women’s singles table tennis event at the Tokyo Olympics, but Zhang was able to quickly adjust with some reliable slow spins to cruise to a comfortable 4-1 victory.

One statistic to illustrate Zhang’s adjustments is to count her number of missed openings into the net. In the first game, Zhang missed three backhand openings into the net and another opening that caught the net and went out. In the four games that she won, Zhang did not miss a single opening into the net, as her high-arcing slow spinny loops tended to land more often and miss out when they did miss.

We present a full recap below. Unfortuntately, video hilights are limited due to difficulties obtaining recordings of the Olympics.

Game 1

Zhang struggled with the unusually slow rhythm of Edem’s serve and pushing game early on in the match as Zhang missed three openings and popped up another serve return to fall into a 4-1 hole. However, Edem herself missed an opening forehand loop, and Zhang was able to get into a better rhythm for the next several points as she won four out of the next six rallies, resulting in a 6-6 tie.

Edem then tricked Zhang on a long fast serve and a spinny short serve, but Edem missed a follow up against a high-ball, keeping the score tied at 7-7. Zhang was able to get in two solid openings on her own serve to take a 9-7 lead. Zhang then missed three of her next four openings, resulting in a deuce score of 10-10 with Edem to serve.

Zhang took game point at 11-10 after winning a slow backhand-backhand exchange. Edem saved the game point with a nice wide forehand flick and wide counter to follow, and she then proceeded to beat Zhang on all three of her next serves. Zhang was able to save two game points but missed her backhand opening on the third one to give Edem the first game 15-13.

Game 2

Zhang appeared to embrace the slow pace of the match in game 2, as she responded to nearly all of Edem’s pushes with slow spinny forehand loops targeted to Edem’s backhand and elbow. After several missed fast backhand openings into the net in game 1, the more forgiving forehand topspin allowed Zhang to only miss one opening (that went out of the table) the whole game. After Edem scored the first point of the game with a pretty down-the-line punch on a short serve to her backhand, Zhang won nine straight points before cruising to a 11-2 victory.

Game 3

Zhang continued her absolute dominance in game 3, landing in slow spins from both the forehand and backhand side this time. Edem appeared to handle the spins slightly better in game 3, but the significantly faster Zhang was able to easily win every one of the quick rallies once the point reached past the opening. The only two points that Zhang lost were due to popping up a serve return on the push and missing a slow spin out of the table when up 6-1.

Game 4

Zhang had trouble reading Edem’s serves again early in the game, but Zhang was able to win all her points on her own serve to take a commanding 8-2 lead. However, Edem was again able to take both the points on her own serve to narrow the gap to 8-4, and then she won a rare victory on a fast backhand-backhand rally, a play that Zhang had so far absolutely dominated in the match, to cut the lead to 8-5. 

Edem missed a short flick and a high ball to give Zhang the 10-5 lead, but then Zhang hit the edge of her racquet on a forehand half-long opening as she again failed to read Edem’s serve properly, making it 10-6. Edem was finally able to pressure Zhang with a slow spin of her own to cut the lead to 10-7, and then Zhang missed another forehand counter to make it 10-8, as USA’s coach Gao Jun called time-out.

Down 10-8 with serve, Edem had a chance to put some heavy mental pressure onto Zhang, but when an unsure Zhang pushed Edem’s serve half-long to the middle, Edem opened the ball into the net, giving Zhang the fourth game 11-8.

Game 5

Zhang caught an edge to open game 5 and after taking a quick 2-0 lead Edem called time-out. Edem was able to win two straight points with a surprise chiquita to Zhang’s elbow on the serve return to level it at 2-2, but Zhang was able to get back into rhythm and won seven straight points to go up 9-2. Zhang appeared to rush a high kill and miss a shot to cut the lead to 9-3, and Zhang could be seen motioning at herself to calm down after the miss.

Zhang then  took match point with another slow spin to Edem’s forehand. Edem was able to save three match points with a pretty block, yet another chiquita to the elbow, and a net ball, but Zhang ultimately proved too much as she landed a cross-court winner, let out a cholae, and took the game 10-6 and the match 4-1.

Notes and Other Results

Zhang will play Taiwan’s Chen Szu-Yu in the round of 32. Zhang lost in the round of 32 in the 2016 Olympics to Korea’s Suh Hyowon.

The rest of the women’s singles brackets and results can be found here. One notable upset was Canada’s Mo Zhang over Germany’s Petrissa Solja in the round of 32. Zhang will face China’s Chen Meng in the round of 16.

The men’s singles brackets and results can be found here. In the round of 64, Lily Zhang’s male teammate Kanak Jha lost 4-2 to Russia’s Kirill Skachkov despite winning one game 11-0.

In the round of 32, one notable result was Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic’s upset over England’s Liam Pitchford. The match went six games, with the final four games all being decided by a margin of two (the final score was 11-8, 7-11, 12-10, 11-13, 11-9, 12-10). It’s a heart-breaking loss for Pitchford, although Jorgic himself also avoided many sleepless nights by pulling out the win: in Game 4, Jorgic missed his own serve at 9-9, and then lost the game off a net-ball by Pitchford.

Jorgic will play Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto in the next round. With a possible draw of Pitchford/Harimoto/Lin Yun-Ju/Fan Zhendong/Ma Long, Jorgic has perhaps the most difficult draw in the men’s singles event.

In mixed doubles, Japan’s Mima Ito and Jun Mizutani stunned China’s Liu Shiwen and Xu Xin with a 4-3 win to take the first non-Chinese gold medal since Ryu Seungmin in 2004.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

Japan’s Ito and Mizutani Win Olympic Mixed Doubles Gold

Japan’s Mima Ito and Jun Mizutani defeated China’s Liu Shiwen and Xu Xin 4-3 (4-11, 5-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 11-6) in the finals to claim gold in the table tennis mixed doubles event at the Tokyo Olympics. It is the first time a non-Chinese has won a gold medal in any table tennis event since Ryu Seungmin’s gold medal in the 2004 men’s singles.

Per a recap from Sina Weibo, China brought 20-30 people to cheer for Liu and Xu while Japan only brought around five or six table tennis players to cheer for Ito and Mizutani. However, as China won the two games easily, the Chinese crowd was apparently not quite into the cheering. When Ito started taking the serve returns more aggressively (as she likes to do when trailing), Japan was able to take three straight games, and when the chance of China losing seemed to be quite real, the Chinese crowd picked up the cheering in games 5 and 6.

While China was able to take back game 6, in the seventh game Liu and Xu both appeared to be playing conservatively while Ito and Mizutani swung to their heart’s desire for a chaotic match as Japan built an insurmountable 8-0 lead in the seventh game.

After the match, a crying Liu Shiwen stated, “I’m sorry for our team. This team [the CNT] gave so much for our mixed doubles. I really wanted to complete this task in this game. I wanted to leave it all out later in the game, but I am sorry to everyone.”

Liu Shiwen in tears after losing the mixed doubles finals.

Japan also received a major scare in the quarter-finals against Germany’s Patrick Franziska and Petrissa Solja, but they were ultimately able to eke out a 16-14 win in the seventh game after saving seven match points. With their victory, Mizutani and Ito ultimately fulfill Mizutani’s prediction back in June that they had a 30 percent chance at winning gold.

In the bronze medal match, Taiwan’s Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching defeated France’s Emmanuel Lebesson and Jia Nan Yuan 4-0 to claim bronze.

Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Japan saved eight match points against Germany. It has been corrected to seven.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out the rest of our Olympic coverage, including our preview of a Sun Yingsha vs Mima Ito women’s singles match-up.

f you are based in the United States, you may also be interested in our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

Olympic Table Tennis Men’s Singles Day 2 Results: Anton Källberg Defeats Nikhil Kumar 4-0

After USA’s Nikhil Kumar was the only player to win two matches on day 1 (due to every other player having a bye) in the men’s singles table tennis event at the Tokyo Olympics, Sweden’s Anton Källberg squashed any hopes of a cinderella run for Kumar with a decisive 4-0 victory in the round of 64. We present a recap as well as a brief summary of other notable Day 2 results below.

Game 1

Källberg won the opening point of the match with a strong half-long serve return to go up 2-0 with serve. Nikhil Kumar struggled mightily with Källberg’s famous serves early in the game as he made four service return errors to fall into an 8-3 deficit. After a pretty block and slow spinny loops from Kumar coupled with two errors by Källberg, Kumar was able to cut the lead to 8-7. However, Kumar then yielded three straight solid openings to Källberg, giving Källberg the first game 11-7.

Game 2

Källberg landed several pretty counters early in game 2, which combined with a slight edge on serve return and consistency on the openings, gave Källberg a comfortable 9-3 lead. Kumar was able to score two nice counters himself, but Kumar then missed his own serve and a counter following a strong half-long opening from Källberg to comfortably give Källberg the second game 11-5.

Game 3

Källberg won game three 11-6, but the game felt like much more of a bloodbath than the score reflects. Källberg was far more solid on both the opening and the rally as he built a 6-0 lead, including a nasty chiquita at 1-0 that left Kumar confused. Kumar let out an audible groan when he pushed a serve return in to the net, and he then proceeded to miss another opening to give Källberg an absolutely commanding 10-2 lead. Although Kumar was able to catch Källberg off guard with an impressive block and two nice pushes on the serve return to close the gap to 10-6, Källberg’s lead never felt truly threatened as he won the next point off a chiquita on the serve return to take the game 11-6.

Game 4

Kumar built a small early 4-2 lead in Game 4, but Källberg ripped a half-long as he landed a series of agressive openings and went on an absolute tear, which despite a time-out from Kumar when down 5-4, resulted in a 9-1 run from Källberg to close out the game 11-5 and the match 4-0.

Notes

Källberg will play Taiwan’s Lin Yun-Ju in the round of 32. Lin is only the fifth seed in this tournament, but many (including apparently the Chinese National Team) consider him to be the second-biggest threat to the Chinese in the men’s singles event behind Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto.

Full brackets and results for the men’s singles can be found here. One of the more notable Day 2 results is Paul Drinkhall qualifying for the round of 32 despite only making the Olympics at the last minute as a replacement for the injured (and now retired) Vladimir Samsonov.

Full brackets and results for the women’s singles can be found here. One notable Day 2 result is 17-year-old Shin Yubin (who despite her low rank is a potent threat as she swept through the Korean Olympic trials and defeated Miu Hirano at WTT Doha in March) survived a seven-game scare against 58-year old pen-hold pips blocker Ni Xialian.

In the mixed doubles events, Japan’s Mima Ito and Jun Mizutani, who saved eight match points against Germany’s Patrick Franziska and Petrissa Solja in a seven-game win, booked a finals spot alongside China’s Liu Shiwen and Xu Xin. WTT’s further summary of Day 2 scores and results can be found here.

The remaining round of 64 matches will conclude on Day 3 (July 26, local time).

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

Olympic Table Tennis Women’s Singles Brackets and Results

After a day of the preliminary rounds, the final 48 players in the Olympic table tennis women’s singles are now set. A full bracket of the tournament results is shown below. Scores and results will be updated daily.

A zoomed out picture of the draw of the top 16 seeded players can be viewed here. A brief description of the day one results can be found on the WTT website. Check out our recaps of selected matches on subsequent days on our Olympic coverage page.

The women’s singles event has concluded. Chen Meng defeated Sun Yingsha 4-2 in the finals to clinch gold, and Mima Ito won bronze after beating Yu Mengyu in the bronze medal match and losing to Sun Yingsha in the semi-finals.

The men’s singles bracket can be viewed here.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

Olympic Table Tennis Men’s Singles Brackets and Results

After a day of the preliminary rounds, the final 48 players in the Olympic table tennis men’s singles are now set. A full bracket of the tournament results is shown below. Scores and results will be updated daily.

A zoomed out picture of the draw of the top 16 seeded players can be viewed here. A brief description of the day one results can be found on the WTT website. Check out our recaps of selected matches on subsequent days on our Olympic coverage page.

Ma Long and Fan Zhendong will play in the finals at 5 am PDT and 21:00 local Tokyo time.

The women’s singles bracket can be viewed here.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

ITTF Responds To German and Chinese Complaints Over Olympic Court Sizes

After both the German and Chinese teams have complained about the size of the court, Chinese state media reports that ITTF has responded by moving the umpire tables back half a meter away from the table. However, they are unable to expand the size of the court due to wiring underneath the floor.

Both Xu Xin and Liu Guoliang complained about the small playing arena to Chinese state media several days ago. Liu said, “The whole playing space is smaller than usual… world competitions normally have areas measuring seven by 14 meters… I just measured it at six by 11 meters. There will be two referees’ tables as well which will cover a big area. I’m worried about athletes’ safety if they start running”

Xu stated, “We have been noticing the size of the playing area throughout. Several side serves hit the screen board (at the side of the court) and we were slightly affected.”

Liu also complained about the COVID restrictions, saying to state media, “We didn’t expect some epidemic rules like not wiping the game table with your hand, or blowing (on the ball).” However, it should be noted that virtually all of these same exact COVID restrictions were also in place when China hosted the World Cup last Fall.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

Mima Ito vs Sun Yingsha Olympic Preview

Arguably the most interesting storyline across all Olympic table tennis events is whether Mima Ito can finally dethrone the Chinese women from their stronghold over Olympic table tennis. Ito has the biggest chance to do so in the single’s event, and if she receives some help from her teammates Kasumi Ishikawa and Miu Hirano, she has a chance to do so in the team event as well.

Frankly, even a finals appearance from Ito in the women’s singles event would be a big deal. Luckily for Ito, she drew Sun Yingsha for her semi-final match-up (as opposed to the more challenging Chen Meng), and a win over Sun would make Ito the first non-Chinese finalist in the Olympic women’s singles event since Kim Hyang-mi in 2004.

In the team event, a China vs Japan final is also highly likely. In such a match-up, Mima Ito would be the “ace” player who plays two singles matches, so China essentially gets to pick which two of Chen Meng, Sun Yingsha, and Liu Shiwen play Ito. Given Liu’s relatively weak head-to-head record against Ito, it is very likely that China will select Sun to play against Ito for perhaps the second time in the Olympics.

We take a look at what to expect from a Sun Yingsha vs Mima Ito match-up.

The Mima Ito vs Sun Yingsha Rivalry

Although Sun is the clear favorite over Ito, the two have somewhat of a budding rivalry as they are of similar age and world ranking. In an interview with WTT, Sun said that her favorite match is her 2019 World Team Cup win over Ito, in which Sun came back from 7-10 to win five straight points to take the deciding fifth game 12-10, and that she likes to re-watch that match starting from the player entrance until the very end.

Sun has the superior 4-1 head-to-head record against Ito in four out of sevens since 2018, including their most recent match-up at the 2020 World Cup. However, several extrinsic factors may tilt the scales slightly more towards Ito’s favor in the Olympics. While the World Cup was in China, the Olympics will be in Tokyo. This benefits Ito both in terms of crowd support and any potential lopsidedness in the quarantine process due to event-mandated or national government-mandated restrictions.

Of course, the biggest extrinsic X-factor hovering over the Tokyo Olympics is that the pandemic has completely disrupted day-to-day life and there has been no international competition since March. While China has had its highly publicized internal scrimmages and Japan has likely also had similar internal competitions, players like Kanak Jha have noted that there is still a significant difference in feeling between smaller internal competitions and bigger international events. A general sports maxim is that chaos and high variance help the underdog, which in this case is Ito.

Ito caused a stir among Chinese netizens when she allegedly claimed to have figured out a strategy to defeat Chen and Sun back in March before they were even selected to the team. On the other hand, Chinese table tennis legend and two-time Olympic singles gold medalist Deng Yaping recently claimed that Ito is not a serious threat to the Chinese women’s team.

Deng also provided live commentary for Sun Yingsha’s 4-2 win over Mima Ito at last year’s World Cup. We take a second look at the match, and take a closer look at some of Deng’s comments on the Sun vs Ito match.

Please note that the Chinese commentators are sometimes loathe to speak critically or reveal information about their own players, so Deng’s comments were actually more heavily focused on Ito than Sun. This bias is reflected in this blog post.

Big Picture Strategies

Deng noted that the key battle in this match-up was to see whether they could make the point about spin or speed. Ito’s preferred manner of winning points was to go for speed and left-right placement.

On the other hand, Deng stated that Sun’s strategy should have been to give spinny (whether underspin or topspin) balls deep into Ito’s backhand, which would give Ito problems due to her short pips and close stance to the table. Sun could build an additional advantage by constantly changing the pace and playing the point to her own rhythm rather than at Ito’s frantic top-speed pace.

As Sun built a 3-0 lead in games, Deng remarked that two keys to Sun’s lead was her superior ability to control the rhythm during the match and Ito’s tendency to commit errors, including even on her own serve. Deng also felt that Ito was playing too rushed in trying to play the game at a fast speed.

Spin vs Speed

Let us take a closer look at how the spin vs speed tension embedded itself into the match. As noted above, Ito largely won rallies by leveraging speed and left-right placement to put winners past Sun on the wide wing (or at least make it so that Sun could barely touch the ball) or to jam Sun on the elbow as shown in the clip below.

Meanwhile, one way that we can see that Sun was prioritizing spin and arcing the ball over speed is that she rarely missed into the net. When she did miss into the net, it was on points like the one shown below where Ito caught her off guard wide on the wings, and Sun couldn’t execute a full stroke properly.

While Ito was trying to score fast winners and ending the point more quickly, Sun’s approach was to land deep spins onto the table mostly towards Ito’s backhand. Sun was also willing to grind out the point for an additional shot or two until Ito missed due to difficulties controlling deep, spinny balls when standing close to the table with her pips.

In the clip below, we can see thatS un tended to target Ito’s backhand and, unlike Sun, Ito frequently missed both into the net and out of the table as she had trouble handling Sun’s spin, depth, and control of the pace. In the slow-motion replay at 6-5 in the first game, we see that the ball lands near the white baseline before Ito punches it into the net.

Deng also noted that Ito made four relatively unforced forehand errors in game 2 as shown in the clip below, a problem that would plague Ito throughout the match.

It is imperative for Ito to clean up these errors in Tokyo. Not only does giving four points away in one game make it nearly impossible to win against a Chinese player, Deng further noted that as a result of Ito’s unreliable forehand, Ito’s only option to win points was to rely on her backhand punch, and Deng Sun would try to take advantage of this restriction.

Ito will undoubtedly be less error-prone in both the rallies and her serves (more on that later) in Tokyo, but there is a question of how intrinsic Ito’s errors are to her style of play. First, since high-arcing spinny loops like Sun’s almost never go into the net and topspin helps drag the ball down onto the table the harder the player spins, Sun’s loops are intrinsically more robust against errors than Ito’s flatter hits. Second, hypothetical longer rallies in which Sun is able to continuously volley in deep spins favor Sun, so it is in Ito’s interest to take riskier shots and end the point more quickly, whether as a winner or as an error, so Ito will appear to make more errors. Hence, while it may be easy to lament what the game would be like without “easy” errors on Ito’s side, it may be unrealistic to hope for her to play as error-free as the Chinese.

Mima Ito’s Experimental Serves

Liu Guoliang stated in 2019 that one of the reasons that Ito has been able to consistently challenge the Chinese National Team is that Ito is not scared to experiment with new plays and techniques. However, that experimentation always comes with growing pains. Deng noted that Ito introduced some new serves at the World Cup, and that while Ito may be able to land that serve in practice every time, executing that serve in a real match is another story. Ito missed three serves over the course of the second and third game, including a critical serve down 8-7 in the second game (the same game mentioned above in which she missed four forehands).

Ito’s service woes continued in WTT Doha this March, as she missed three serves against Hina Hayata in the WTT Contender Finals, and she had this infamous sequence against Yu Mengyu that WTT has absolutely loved sharing.

However, Deng also noted that one of Ito’s unique characteristics is that even when she’s missing, she keeps trying. Indeed, these high-cost experiments come with a reward. We see in the clip below that when Ito was able to properly execute the experimental serves that she was missing, Sun actually appeared quite confused and gave very desirable returns to Ito (even though Ito loses some of these points in the end).

A big question is whether Ito can clean up the exploration and fully exploit the new serves that she has at the Tokyo Olympics. While it’s tempting to assume that of course Ito will clean up her act for an event as important to her as the Olympics, Ito was likely also banking on being able to play in an international tournament between WTT Doha and now. Without that experience, will Ito have enough confidence to execute these experimental serves at critical moments?

Mima Ito’s Short Pips Serve Return Magic

The worst possible serve to give to Mima Ito is a short serve to her backhand against which she can work her wonders with the pips. Even against short serves to the forehand, Ito will sometimes step in and take the serve with her pips. We see in the clip below some examples of damage that Ito was able to do using her pips on the serve return against Sun.

To prevent Ito from taking all short serves with her pips, one common strategy is to mix in long fast serves to the backhand. As noted in a previous blog post, left-handed players have even sometimes altered their starting serving position pattern in what is perhaps an attempt to allow for better long fast serves to Ito’s backhand.

Deng also mentioned the straight serve (i.e. no sidespin) as a possible method to keep Ito from wreaking havoc with her pips. After Ito missed a straight serve return against Sun in the point shown below, Deng offered praise for the straight serve, noting that, “Players with pips do not like straight serves [with no sidespin]. They actually like the sidespin, because they can borrow your sidespin and punch the ball.”

Sun mostly stuck with standard pendulum and shovel serves with sidespin, which are clearly her preferred serves, throughout the match, but it may be worth keeping an eye out for more straight serves from Sun against Ito.

Beware the Mima Ito Comeback

As Ito won Games 4 and 5, Deng was constantly bemoaning Sun’s wasted opportunity after blowing a 9-7 lead while up 3-0, declaring that the match should already be over with a 4-0 victory for Sun. However, Deng also acknowledged that Ito is extremely adept at making come-backs as she tends to go for broke and swing at everything when she is down, and those shots always seems to land.

An astute watcher may have also noticed that some of Ito’s more creative serves and serve returns shown above come when Ito is down big. Ito also tends to turn her creativity up another notch when she’s down as she loses fear over taking risky shots.

We see examples of Ito launching comebacks with crazy shots in the first game (in which Ito came back from 10-6 to force a deuce), second game (when Ito narrowed the gap from 10-3 to 10-6), and the fourth game (in which Ito came back from 9-7 while trailing 3-0 in games).

Sun is still the favorite over Ito, but we’ve seen that if enough things break right both technically and mentally for Ito, she has a very real chance of upsetting Sun and making her way into the finals.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out our other analysis posts and the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

Olympic Table Tennis Draws Released

Update: We have posted brackets and results for starting from the main draw (final 48) onward for both the men’s singles and women’s singles events. Brackets and results for the team event can be found here. Check out our recaps of selected matches on Day 2 and onwards on our Olympic coverage page.

WTT posted the following images on their Instagram story with the full draws for the mixed doubles and team events and the top 16 seeds in the singles events at the Tokyo Olympics:

As a reminder, here are the seedings for each of the events:

Here is the tier list of China’s perceived biggest rivals in the singles and team events:

On the men’s singles side, China catches a break as their two biggest perceived rivals, Lin Yun-Ju and Tomokazu Harimoto, end up in the same quarter-final bracket. Ma Long in particular must be pleased with his draw as Fan Zhendong draws the winner between Lin and Harimoto.

On the women’s singles side, Sun Yingsha draws Mima Ito, the sole tier 1 rival, in her semi-final bracket, giving Chen Meng a significantly easier path to the finals than her teammate.

Ito should be pleased that she draws Sun Yingsha instead of Chen Meng, who has had a more dominant last couple years and better head-to-head record against Ito compared to Sun. On the other hand Harimoto is perhaps the biggest loser of the men’s singles draw as he draws Lin in the quarter-final draw, who at least in the eyes of China appears to be the strongest low seed in the tournament, and then draws top seed Fan Zhendong, whom Harimoto has a weaker head-to-head record against compared to Ma Long, in the semi-finals.

Among the lower seeds, the biggest winners are essentially those who drew Hugo Calderano and Cheng I-Ching in their semi-final group, who are quite clearly a step below the other top four seeds (particularly Cheng). In particular, in the round-of-16, Bernadette Szocs gets a chance to repeat her upset in WTT Doha over Cheng. Dimitrij Ovtcharov also gets a stab at Hugo Calderano in a potential quarter-finals match-up.

After Jang Woojin blew a perfect chance at WTT Doha enter the top eight and improve his odds of getting a good draw, the odds ended up being in his favor as he draws virtually an ideal draw in Calderano’s part of the bracket far away from the other Asian powerhouses. Similarly, after failing to capitalize on Cheng I-Ching’s poor performance and break into the top four at WTT Doha, Kasumi Ishikawa catches a break as she ends up in the same semi-finals slot in Cheng I-Ching.

An account affiliated Hugo Calderano has also published the draw for the earlier rounds:

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out the rest of our Olympic coverage.

If you are based in the United States, be sure to also check out our exclusive interview with Kanak Jha and a tournament that Edges and Nets will participate in hosting in San Diego in mid-August.

Chen Meng Interview on Her Mentors and Olympic Preparations

Chen Meng recently sat down with WTT for an interview on her Olympic preparations and relationship with several mentors. The transcript (in Chinese) and related images can be found here. We provide an English translation below.

Since when did you feel that you can take on the heavy responsibility of the competition?

Probably in the three competitions [All China National Championships, World Cup, ITTF Finals] after the pandemic restart in 2020. After these three tournaments, it felts okay, but it felt like something was missing. But I don’t know exactly what was missing either. But after these three tournaments, in fact, from my heart, my control, and understanding of myself, I felt confident that I could take it one.

Li Xiaoxia and Zhang Yining are your idols, who do you think you are more like?

Because the personalities may be different, I don’t think I can imitate them, but to be a better version of myself. If you try to imitate, you can’t imitate it, because personality, including some playing styles, are actually not the same. But the type of experience they have, because I usually go to some of their previous games, including the Olympic Games, I think it’s more to learn from their experience. When I reach the moment how should I better help myself get through this time. How to help myself shake off bad moments, and sometimes to learn when it’s good, how they conduct themselves when it’s going well.

Who would you ask to share their experience with you?

Sister Xia, because she belongs to the Shandong team! So I have been with her more since I was a child. Generally, I would ask her for some advice, including now more often from Director Ma [Ma Lin]. Because they all have this kind of experience in the Olympic Games, and they are all successful experiences. So I will learn from them, including preparing for the battle, including what kind of feeling it will be at the Olympics. I will often ask them.

Are you ready for the Olympics?

At the beginning, I was thinking that I haven’t participated, so there were some areas that I felt worried about. But when I think about it later, in fact, I think everything has its pros and cons. Because I have never participated, I am full of expectations for the Olympics, and I am very excited. So in terms of preparing for the battle, I think it will feel fresh. In fact, I feel that this kind of Olympic Games during the pandemic is the first time for everyone, and they have never experienced it. In fact, everyone is the same.

Can you imagine what it’s like on the Olympic Games?

Actually if you ask me to think about it, I really can’t imagine what it looks like. But I went to talk to Director Ma, and he would tell me what it’s like in the Olympics. What he said to me is that you will feel that the surrounding environment will bring you a very nervous atmosphere, because everyone wants to play well and want to win the championship. It’s actually a competition, but the layout of the venue is all five rings. So it always gives you a feeling of excitement and pressure. In fact, he said that as long as people want to fight well, everyone is actually under the same pressure.

And the errors in this environment, it’s not like your usual errors where they don’t matter. Then you feel that everything must be cared for and cherished. However, when he told me this feeling, I didn’t really understand it at first. But after telling me many times, and even after I watched some games, I can actually feel a little bit like this. But I think I have to feel it myself. Prepare yourself, and then make yourself stronger, and then when you face all your opponents at the competition, you will not be scared.

How will the pressure be relieved?

I usually like to talk about it when I am under pressure. I think talking, finding someone who I trust and talking, I think saying it out loud is actually a good kind of release for me. And I don’t like to make myself heavy. I like to be in a relatively relaxed and happy state.

Is there a group of relatives and friends around you, probably a few people, who frequently answer your calls?

Yes, of course.

About four or five?

There aren’t that many. Actually, there are only two of them. I don’t think there are too many people you want to talk to. As long as they understand you and can listen, I think it’s actually enough. If you just listen to what I have been saying, I can speak for about 30 minutes. As far as I am concerned, I am actually quite fast in resolving stress. As long as I am uncomfortable, in fact, as long as I say it, I will feel a lot more comfortable. And I won’t have so many distracting thoughts.

What does the Olympics mean to you?

I think it is a manifestation of personal values. Because I think as an athlete, in fact, I think the best stage for you to show yourself is in the Olympics. It gives me the feeling that all eyes are on me. So I hope I can really show my best mental state and competitive state in just a few days. In fact, I think I really think too much, it’s really so useless. When it’s really time, you have done your best, you have prepared what you should prepare, and you have done what you should do. At that point, you can show yourself, you just need to do your best.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out our translation of Ma Long’s and Liu Shiwen’s interviews with WTT along with other interviews we have conducted and translated and the rest of our Olympic coverage.

Sun Yingsha WTT Interview On Olympic Preparations and More

Sun Yingsha recently sat down with WTT for an interview on her Olympic preparations and her experience at the 2019 World Team Cup. The transcript (in Chinese) can be found here. We provide an English translation below.

How have you changed over the past few years?

The changes I’ve went through over the last two years, including standards for myself, actually I think it has clearly gone up to when I first arrived [onto the team]. When I first arrived, I was always in a fighting state of mind, and I would let it all out on the table. Now, in training I’ve actually seen my progress. Now when I lost a point, I feel like it’s a major pity. I’ve had this feeling since roughly last year’s World Cup, but I still think it’s not enough. I feel like every point should be very precious to me.

How are you preparing for the Olympics?

It always feel like I can never train enough. I still need to train every little aspect. I need to train until leadership, coaches, and I can see progress. Then I can feel confident in myself. If you want to be Olympic champion, then you will always feel that you have not trained enough.

Please recount your 2019 World Team Cup experience [Sun Yingsha came back from down 10-7 to win deuce in the fifth against Mima Ito].

I’ll often think about this competition. It’s been two years now. I’ve indeed watched it many times. I don’t just watch the last few points in the comeback. It’s starting from when we step onto the court, including the entrance and intros. I sometimes watch it all.

Because I feel like this feeling is something that only I can know, including my mood in the game and the scary situation I was in. I was down three match points, with the team score tied, and I had already used the time-out. But now when I think about it, especially during training, it really is the most precious match to me.

Sun Yingsha celebrates in her 3-2 win over Mima Ito at the 2019 World Team Cup
Sun Yingsha celebrates in her 3-2 win over Mima Ito at the 2019 World Team Cup

Compared to the 2019 World Cup, what mental preparations have you made for the Olympics?

That night, I was able to fall asleep, but I didn’t sleep that soundly. That match was already a high-pressure environment. Once I get to the Tokyo Olympics and go to the match, it may be ten times or 100 times more nerve-wracking. But I think having experienced it [the 2019 World Cup] before, this time it will be slightly better. At least I know this kind of feeling, even if it’s just usually, because international competitions are hard to come by these days, but I have a little ground on to stand on during training.

What do the Olympics mean to you?

First of all, the Olympics really are a stage that many athletes want to play on. In my heart, I find it equally super cool. And right now I’m just speaking from imagination, but once I’m playing in the Olympics I really just need to go out and compete. Athletes all look beautiful on the court, and if I want to win the achievement of my life, I think I must do this kind of thing well. The goal of the Olympics in my mind may never change.

Can you maintain self-discipline in order to achieve your goals?

I can definitely do it. Even if I lack some understanding or care of myself, I feel that this goal of the Olympic Games in my heart, including winning the Olympic gold medal, has always been impossible for me to shake.

If you liked this post, please share it with your friends and follow Edges and Nets on Facebook Instagram, and Twitter to stay updated. Check out our translation of Ma Long’s and Liu Shiwen’s interviews with WTT along with other interviews we have conducted and translated and the rest of our Olympic coverage.

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