Liu Dingshuo Upsets Xu Xin 4-3 In China National Games Quarterfinals

After nearly blowing a 3-1 lead, 23-year-old Liu Dingshuo was able to regroup in game seven to upset Xu Xin 11-6, 11-5, 8-11, 11-5, 6-11, 5-11, 11-8 in the quarter-finals of the men’s singles. Xu appeared to struggle with his forehands early on in the match as he went down 3-1. Although he found himself in better form in the second half of the match as Liu started missing some short openings too, Liu was able to hold on to the 4-3 win.

As is typical when a young player scores an upset over a big-name, post-game Liu remarked that he wasn’t thinking of the result heading into the match and went in with the mindset of simply getting to the next shot for every point and to learn something going hard at Xu Xin. He also noted that he was slightly hesitant in the fifth and sixth game. The seventh game was a life-or-death struggle (Chinese idiom), but he managed to survive.

Although the match went seven games, none of the individual games were particularly close as one player usually jumped to a four point lead pretty early on in almost every game.

With this loss, Xu is the only member of the Chinese Men’s and Women’s Olympic team to lose in the singles event at the China National Games so far as Fan Zhendong, Wang Chuqin, Liu Shiwen, Sun Yingsha, Wang Manyu, and Chen Meng all reached the semi-finals of their singles events.

Xu has now suffered numerous upsets to younger Chinese players in various domestic competitions this year. Combined with his mixed doubles loss at the Olympics and his recent comments that he is focusing on his family, it may be time to wonder if retirement is coming soon for Xu. That being said, Xu and Liu Shiwen did secure the gold in mixed doubles at the China National Games several hours after Xu’s loss to Liu Dingshuo.

We present a full recap below.

Game 1

Liu took control of the first game by cleaning up low-quality pushes from Xu with clean, quick kills and then by grinding down Xu’s forehand when the point did go to a rally.

Liu opened the match with a strange missed backhand that dribbled straight down into the table— something that has also bothered Ma Long and Fan Zhendong at this tournament—and missed another push into the net to go down 2-0. 

Liu then won three straight counter-looping rallies with wide attacks to Xu’s forehand, and then landed two short backhand winners to go up 5-2. Liu then missed two short backhand openings but landed yet another winner to make it 6-4. Xu was able to score another point with a backhand opening to Liu’s elbow, but Liu was then able to land several more deep attacks to Xu’s forehand to go on another four point run to go up 10-5.

Liu rushed a backhand loop kill and missed, making it 10-6, but then Xu missed a backhand roll — Liu’s first rally of the game won against the backhand rather to the forehand— to give the first game to Liu 11-6.

Game 2

Liu’s dominance in the rally continued into game two, although it appeared that both players made some adjustments. Xu appeared to focus more on covering his wide forehand, and Liu started going to the backhand and elbow more often. Xu missed around three backhand blocks from his elbow.

Xu was able to stay in the game early on with a combination of missed short openings from Liu and well-anticipated blocks and counters from Xu. However, once the score reached 5-5, Liu took over as he landed several openings to the elbow and wide down-the-line counterloops to the forehand that Xu was unable to handle. Liu scored six straight points to take the second game 11-5.

Game 3

Xu was finally able to win some counterlooping rallies early in the game to build an early 5-2 lead. Liu was able to tie it up at 6-6 with the same plays as the first two games, but he gave the lead right back up with a couple of low quality/missed short serve returns. Liu missed another couple forehand loops, and Xu was able to take another counterlooping rally to give Xu the third game 11-8.

Game 4

The score was level at 2-2 after a couple of exchanged openings and pushing errors. Liu then landed in two aggressive cross-court kills from the backhand corner while Xu made another two forehand errors of his own to give Liu the 6-2 lead. Xu then landed a pretty block winner and counterloop winner over the next several points, but both times he followed it up with an error of his own, giving Liu an 8-4 lead.

Xu landed one more forehand winner, but Liu responded with a wide cross-court backhand winner of his own to make it 9-5. Xu then missed his own serve, and on the next point he rushed a forehand flick in frustration and hit it into the net, giving Liu the fourth game 11-5.

Game 5

Xu jumped to a 6-0 lead off several pretty forehand winners, but Liu’s trusty attacks combined with a net ball and a pretty save helped him cut the lead to 6-4. Liu forced Xu Xin into a lobbing rally on the next point, and Xu Xin managed to steal the point, sparking another four point run capped off by an edge ball to go up 10-4. Xu lost the next rally and then missed another chop block, but he got an edge ball on the next point to take the fifth game 11-6.

Game 6

With Xu much better able to hold his ground in the counter-looping rallies compared to the first few games, Xu was able to build an early 5-2 lead before Liu burned him with a pretty down-the-line chiquita. Xu got another net ball to go up 6-3 and went on to go on a 6-2 run— primarily off the result of Liuu missing his own short openings— to take the sixth game comfortably at 11-5.

Game 7

Liu set the tone early in the game by winning two hilight-worthy rallies to go up 2-0. However, he then gave the next point away with a missed serve. Liu won the next rally, but Xu was able to win three points in a row thanks to a net ball and a tricky serve return. With Xu up 4-3, Liu called time-out.

Liu then won two of the next three rallies to even it at 5-5, and then got a net ball to pull ahead 6-5. Xu surely would like to go back in time to redo the next five points, as Xu whiffed two loops and hit the ball with his finger (and missed) on another point to give Liu the 10-6 lead. Liu then rushed a kill and lost the next rally to close the gap to 10-8, but he was able to win one last rally to take the seventh game 11-8 and book himself a spot in the semi-finals.

Liu will play Wang Chuqin in the semi-finals. The full draw can be found here. The draw for the women’s singles event can be found here.

You can watch the full match on 247 Table Tennis’ Youtube Channel.

Check out the best point of the match here:

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