Fan Zhendong Interview On Olympics and More

Fan Zhendong recently gave an interview with Table Tennis World on his Olympic matches against Lin Yun-Ju and Ma Long and more. A rough translation of an excerpt is provided below.

Olympic men’s singles finals
★ “Ping Pong World”: Did the Tokyo Olympics look the same as you imagined when you were preparing?☆

Fan Zhendong: I felt very different during the Olympic Games than what I imagined. I didn’t feel as nervous as I imagined. It may have something to do with the empty space. I was missing a lot of external factors that can affect and stimulate me in previous competitions, making me feel very calm. In the arena, I can hear my breathing, the sound of the ball landing, and the people in the stands cheering me on. This kind of feeling has never been seen in previous competitions. It makes me very focused, the feeling of tension is also controllable, and people also calm down without being so irritable.

★ “Ping Pong World”: What are the “insights only after experience” mentioned by Fan Zhendong?☆

Fan Zhendong: I used to think that the opponents in the Olympics were still those opponents, but after experiencing it, I realized that the opponents’ performance and combat effectiveness can exceed imagination. Whether it is an opponent that I usually play well against or not, I can burst out of potential. Everyone cherishes the stage of the Olympics very much and will try to win in all situations. The first time I had this feeling was watching Jeong Young-sik’s game against Gionis. He won back with a 1-3 score in games and a 4:10 defecit. My game was next to him and I hadn’t played yet. He was playing, he was still playing when I was almost finished, and I could feel his desire for victory in the nearby court. The Olympics stage can really mobilize everyone’s small universe, but I feel that the Olympics will make people a little bit tight. This process is from the very beginning, not particularly daring to release it completely, until everyone is desperately trying to give play to their advantages. In the end, there was a feeling of bayonet hitting my heart.


★ “Ping Pong World”: What is the state of Fan Zhendong in the semifinals?☆

Fan Zhendong: Actually, as soon as the draw came out, I felt that Lin Yun-ru’s quarter of the draw was very strong, and anyone who wanted to play it would have to blaze a trail. (The other three seeded players in Lin Yunru’s district are: Nigeria’s Aruna, England’s Pitchford, Japan’s Harimoto). Sure enough, when I met Lin Yunru who came out in the semifinals, I was not particularly comfortable playing. His first three shots and serve-return flicks posed a great threat to me and he was very aggressive. His fighting spirit that day was not the same as before. The same, it was the one with the strongest desire to win in my fight against him so many times. My side is playing normally. Some of the things I didn’t do well were that I didn’t move fast enough, and I lost the first gane as soon as I came up. There was also an 8:5 lead in the middle and a 9:5 lead in the first game. I felt like I was in control. After the game was over, Lin Yun-ru would play the first three shots so that I couldn’t get into a rally. After the score was tied, there was a change in his mentality. The two games are actually very similar. It’s not that I played so badly, but that I didn’t do enough in handling the ball rigorously and courageously. Instead, in the seventh game, I fell behind 0:2. Some of the balls that were received and served directly, including directly flicking the forehand, came out. People were not soft. After making a mistake, he can grit his teeth when facing the opportunity.


★ “Ping Pong World”: In the men’s singles final against Ma Long, how did you feel on the court at that time?☆

Fan Zhendong: What I feel in this final is that Ma Long is not so different in technique from the past, but his performance, inner preparation, interpretation of the game, and plans for preparing on the court, these were different from usual. Usually the game, as Chairman (Liu Guoliang) and the coaches reminded me before, I normally don’t care about being a few points behind. I felt very pressure to fall behind in the Olympics. As soon as the men’s singles final started, Ma Long came with a “plan” and a situation he hoped to form in the game. I think he is also fully prepared for head-to-head match up. And I have some errors in preparing and interpreting the game. I always want to let every ball enter a rally, but the ball always has to go through the first three shots before it enters the rally. If the beginning of the point is not done well, my own performance in the rally will be discounted. The mutual restraint and restraint that came up in the game, I did not do enough. In this men’s singles final, except for the big difference in the score in the first game, the score was not much worse in the next three or four games. I felt that I was one or two points behind. Although I kept biting, I could not catch it. This is also the biggest feeling of the whole game. Now I think about this final again. I was controlled by Ma Long throughout the game. If he wants to rally, we will rally. If he wants to change to short shots, we will play short shots. I still don’t have a set of things to restrict him.

★ “Ping Pong World”: I believe you also have your own set of “plans” before this final, which did not follow your assumptions. Where are the main problems?☆ 

Fan Zhendong: The main reason is the pressure brought by the score. When I had a little chance, it was in the second game, leading by 10:8, and then won after a deuce, including the chance at the beginning of the third game. After 6 all, I made some unnecessary mistakes. At that time, I felt like I had just eked out the second game, and the game score came to be 1 to 1. I thought about it and tried to take a breath, just this one idea was enough for the opponent to take control, regardless if the score is leading or lagging, Ma Long always let me have the feeling of catching up.


★ “Ping Pong World”: After returning to the Olympic Village at the end of the men’s singles final, until the start of the team competition, what mental state were you in during this period?☆

Fan Zhendong: It doesn’t seem to have any special feelings. During the final, I also felt very quiet around. There were sporadic cheering on the field. I could hear several female voices cheering for Ma Long. After finishing the finals, what I thought was to go all out to prepare for the team competition. The time I really felt sorry was that night. Even if I closed my eyes, I couldn’t sleep well. There was no match on the second day. When we went to the field for training, Wang Chuqin and I played doubles with Ma Long and Xu Xin. It seemed that everyone didn’t say much. In fact, to be honest, before the match, I thought about how to play a good team match after losing in the singles final. My position is basically to play No. 1 in the team match. In the second set, I played the opponent No. 1. The task is not easy, so I need to Keep preparing yourself.

★ “Ping Pong World”: When preparing for the Olympics, do you want to win the men’s singles more often, or do you want to adjust the number of times before the team competition if you fail to win the championship?☆

 Fan Zhendong: I have thought about winning or losing. The first idea is to meet up in the singles finals with Ma Long. Then I thought I won a lot in the early stage of preparing for the game, but I didn’t dare to think about it in the later stage. The main thing is to prepare well and want to go in all kinds of situations considered and prepared.


★ “Ping Pong World”: After winning the Olympic singles runner-up and team championship, did you continue to reflect on your performance in the Olympics during the quarantine period?☆ 

Fan Zhendong: I felt a little tired when I came back, so I wanted to relax, sleep more a day, and eat more, so I have gained weight recently (laughs), so let’s just be in a state of being empty. During the period, I was very energetic one night and watched the Olympic men’s singles final. In fact, I don’t want to watch the video of my loss. When I watched the video of the loss of the World Table Tennis Championships in Budapest in 2019, I couldn’t remember many of the balls. I didn’t feel like I was stepping on the court, but when I was watching the Olympic Games, I felt that each ball left a strong impression, and I remember how I won or lost.


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