Category Archives: match recap

Zhou Qihao Upsets Ma Long 4-3 In China Olympic Scrimmage Semi-Finals

After upsetting Liang Jingkun in the quarter-finals at the China Olympic Scrimmage, Zhou Qihao pulled off an even bigger upset in the semi-finals with an 11-5, 13-11, 9-11, 8-11, 14-12, 4-11, 11-8 victory over Ma Long. As the underdog, Zhou played extremely aggressively, and when he was hot, there was little that even Ma could do. However, when Ma seized control of the game flow, he was able to force Zhou into alternating between being too passive and letting Ma dominate the pace and being too aggressive and missing wild shots.

As a result, the match was extremely streaky, and even a six point lead never felt safe. In game 7, Zhou found himself trailing 8-4, turned up the aggression a notch, and was able to pull off seven straight points to take the game 11-8 and the match 4-3. After the match, Zhou said that it was better not to think too much when down 8-4 and that he just tried taking it one point at a time.

Zhou will play Fan Zhendong, who defeated Wang Chuqin in the semi-finals, in the finals. Zhou knows he will be an underdog against Fan as well and stated that he just has to go for it. In the women’s singles event, Chen Meng, who defeated Zhu Yuling in the semi-finals, will face off in the finals against Sun Yingsha, who defeated Wang Yidi in the semi-finals.

The schedule for May 7 is as follows: Zhu Yuling plays Wang Yidi for third place at 18:30, Wang Chuqin plays Ma Long for third place at 19:30, Chen Meng plays Sun Yingsha at 20:30, and Fan Zhendong plays Zhou Qihao at 21:30. Presumably at least the finals will be broadcast on CCTV-5.

Game 1

From his hard and wide counter-loop on the first point of the match to an aggressive hard down the line counter from below the table to go up 9-5, Zhou set an extremely aggressive rhythm throughout the opening game. Ma seemed to be unable to get into an aggressive rhythm for himself as Zhou won the first game handily 11-5.

Game 2

Zhou continued his aggressive and dominant ways heading into the second game. He took an early 3-1 lead,with the only lost point being due to a missed opening. However, Ma then executed a long fast serve that Zhou was only able to give a passive return against and then a short topspin serve to the forehand that Zhou misread and popped up. These two service sequences were enough to get Ma into an aggressive flow as he went on to win five straight points to go up 6-3.

Ma then missed several of what looked like some easier shots and openings, culminating in a push into the net to go down 9-6 as Zhou reeled off six straight points of his own. After Zhou missed a push and Ma won a pretty rally after Zhou misread his backhand serve, it looked like momentum was on Ma’s side. However, on the next point, Zhou pushed long to Ma’s backhand against Ma’s backhand serve, but Ma missed the step-around forehand opening, bringing the score to 10-8. Zhou then missed a half-long opening of his own and then called time-out up 10-9 with the serve.

Coming out of the time-out, the game took a turn into a short-game battle. Ma landed a chiquita on the serve return to Zhou’s elbow that Zhou missed, leveling the score to 10-10. Zhou then pulled off a nearly identical shot against Ma’s serve to take an 11-10 advantage. Ma then pushed short on the next serve return and prepared to step around early for the forehand. Zhou saw this and attempted a chiquita down the line but missed to make it 11-11. Ma tried a long fast serve to the backhand but missed the block to go down 12-11. A short push exchange at the next point ended with Ma pushing it into the net, giving Zhou the second game 13-11.

Game 3

Ma appeared to seize control over the serve and return game as he went up 6-1 off a combination of clean openings and counters. A desperate Zhou attempted a wild backhand opening that went straight into the net, bringing Ma’s lead up to 7-1. Zhou then busted out a new backhand serve, won a point off the ensuing rally, and then missed his second attempt at a backhand serve to go down 8-2. Zhou was able to regather himself to win three straight points to narrow it to 8-5, but Ma landed a big forehand counter-loop to go up 9-5.

Zhou narrowed it to 9-6 with a nice chiquita to Ma’s forehand, but when he attempted the same move again on the next point, a prepared Ma landed a hard down-the-line counter to take a 10-6 lead. An aggressive Zhou landed in two straight winners and a fast and wide down-the-line backhand block to cut the lead to 10-9, prompting Ma to call time-out. Ma served a short serve to the forehand and Zhou pushed wide to the forehand off the side of the table, but Ma was able to land a pretty down-the-line loop that a late Zhou blocked into the net, giving Ma the third game 11-9.

Game 4

Luck was on Ma’s side throughout game four. First, at 3-2 he hit a shot that looked very very much like a side-ball, but the umpire ruled it an edge ball. The ruling may have affected Zhou mentally as he made a series of errors to go down 9-4. After Zhou scored another point to cut it to 9-5, Ma then got another edge to go up 10-5. Zhou was able to cut the lead to 10-8, but Ma landed what appeared to be another net-ball on the short push. Zhou missed the return and threw his hands up in frustration as Ma took the fourth game 11-8.

Game 5

Zhou started game five with another hot streak of pure aggression as he won five straight points to go up 6-2. However, he cooled off a bit after missing a forehand flick to make it to 6-3. Zhou appeared to alternate between being too passive and too aggressive as Ma went on a 7-1 run of his own to go up 9-7. However, a couple missed openings and pushes from Ma gave Zhou enough breathing room to save a game point and force it to deuce.

Ma got a lucky net ball to go up 11-10, but on the next point he then ripped his third ball forehand opening straight into the net. Ma landed an impressive down-the-line block to get his third straight game-point of the game, but Zhou overpowered Ma on the next rally to level it again to 12-12. Ma then gave a slightly weak and high push at 12-12 and a weak half-long opening at 12-13; Zhou killed both with a counter-loop winner to take the fifth game 14-12.

Game 6

Ma was in complete control of game 6 as he again forced Zhou into alternating between too passive and too aggressive and missing high-risk shots. After Ma went up 8-1, Zhou was able to land in a couple of impressive points, but Ma squashed the comeback with an impressive pre-meditated step-around kill against the long serve to go up 9-3 and then an amazing highlight to go up 10-3. The two players then exchanged points as Ma comfortably took the sixth game 11-4.

Game 7

Ma started game 7 on fire as he built an early 4-1 lead. Zhou, desperate to make some changes, started playing extremely aggressively as the next few points were almost all either Zhou killing himself or scoring huge winners early in the point. The gamble did not immediately pay off as Ma went up 8-4. After Ma missed a push to cut the lead to 8-5, all of Zhou’s risky shots suddenly started to land as he completed a 7-0 run to win the game 11-8 and the match 4-3.

You can watch the full match below:

A slideshow of relevant points can be found in the Instagram post below.

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Fan Zhendong Ends Lin Shidong’s Cinderalla Run At China Olympic Scrimmage

Fan Zhendong (aka “小胖”, which translates to “mini fatty”) ended 16-year-old Lin Shidong’s (aka “小小胖“, which translates to “mini mini fatty”) cinderella run in the quarter-finals of the China Olympic Scrimmage with an 11-13, 11-5, 11-9, 4-11, 11-5, 11-6 victory. Seeded last in his group, Lin won all three matches in his group including star names such as Xu Xin and Yan An. He had his opportunities to push the match against Fan to seven games and steal a win, including a painful blown 8-3 lead in game 3, but ultimately Fan was slightly more polished and experienced than Lin.

After the match, Fan commented that he felt that he played to his standard level (i.e. not terribly or exceptionally well). He felt he did not play well the first two games, particularly the first game, but even though it looked like Lin was dominating him in games three and four, he felt that he was playing better, which allowed him to execute well in games 5 and 6 and win both games relatively comfortably. Fan also praised Lin’s mentality and refusal to give up when behind and noted Lin’s rapid improvement since the last time that they played.

Fan Zhendong will play Wang Chuqin in the semi-finals. On the other half of the bracket, Zhou Qihao, who upset Liang Jingkun, will play Ma Long. The other top seeds, Xu Xin and Lin Gaoyuan, were eliminated in the group stage by Lin Shidong and Fang Bo, respectively.

In the women’s singles event, Zhu Yuling defeated Liu Shiwen 4-0 and Wang Yidi defeated Wang Manyu 4-2 to join top two seeds Chen Meng and Sun Yingsha in the semi-finals. Chen will play Zhu and Wang will play Sun in the semi-finals.

You can watch the match along with most other matches at this event on the Youtube channel 247 Table Tennis. More information on watching the event live can be found here.

Game 1

Both players spent most of the first game getting into rhythm as they each missed backhand topspin rolls and gave sloppy pushes and serves for their opponents to abuse. Fan ended up winning a couple of early counterlooping rallies to put himself up at a comfortable 8-3 lead. However, he then consecutively missed a chiquita, a half-long opening, and a down-the-line backhand roll. allowing Lin to catch back up to 8-6. Fan won another power counter-looping rally to go up 9-6 and then popped up Lin’s serve return to keep it at 9-7. Lin tried to take a chiquita to Fan’s forehand, but Fan ripped it for a cross-court winner to take triple game-point at 10-7. 

Lin landed his signature hard backhand opening to save the first game point, and then Fan threw away the next two points off of a missed backhand opening and a missed forehand counterloop from a good position. Fan landed his next counter-loop attempt to Lin’s elbow to take an 11-10 lead, but Lin saved the fourth game point with another hard instant backhand winner. Emblematic of his sloppy play in game 1, Fan missed his serve at 11-11 and then missed another backhand roll to give Lin the first game 13-11.

Game 2

Fan started to get into rhythm for game 2 as he reeled off three straight solid step-around forehand loops from his elbow to take an early 5-2 lead. Lin then tried taking a hard cross-court forehand flick to Fan’s forehand, but Fan killed that ball as well to go up 6-2. Fan finally missed a forehand from the elbow to cut the lead 6-3, but his dominance continued as he built up a 9-4 lead. Lin then took a gamble by serving and immediately stepping around. Luckily for Lin, Fan flicked right to where Lin was waiting as Lin ripped a forehand winner to bring it to 9-5. However, a misread serve by Lin and a net-ball from Fan would cut any hopes of a comeback short as Fan took game 11-5.

Game 3

Lin started with a strong service game to go up 3-1, but his struggles with Fan’s short serve to the forehand continued as Fan caught up to 3-3. Lin again scored two points off his own serve to go up 5-3. Fan tried for two short serves to Lin’s forehand, but Lin was able to execute a surprise heavy push to the forehand that Fan pushed into the net and a weird floating long push to the backhand that Fan missed the opening on. Fan missed his chiquita on the next serve return to give Lin the 8-3 lead.

Fan then won the next point off his signature sequence of a hard chiquita on the serve return and then dominating the ensuing rally. Lin went for a hard counter-loop on the next point, but it went straight into the net, narrowing the lead to 8-5. Whether because he felt that the momentum was shifting or that Lin’s gamble was ill-advised, Lin’s coach then promptly called time-out. 

It seems that both players benefited from the time-out as the next two points ended up being amazing rallies, but Fan won both to cut the lead to 8-7. Lin then gambled again by stepping around early and destroying Fan’s chiquita to what was previously his elbow to give himself a 9-7 lead. Fan then served a tricky sidespin serve off the backhand side of the table and then dominated Lin’s weak and unconfident return. Lin then pushed another serve return into the net, and then Fan won the next two points off his signature chiquita sequence to cap off a 8-1 run and take the pivotal third game 11-9.

Game 4

Fan continued his dominant ways for the first point and a half, but Lin landed a pretty block to take the second point and finally stop the bleeding. He built up an early 5-2 lead thanks to some missed backhand rolls from Fan. He then got a net-ball up 5-2 and up 6-2; Fans saved both nets well, but Lin was able to capitalize on both opportunities and extend the lead to 7-2. He then scored another point off a surprise heavy long push to Fan’s elbow to build the lead to 8-2. At 8-3, Lin briefly thought that his first name was Yun-Ju as he tried to take a short serve from the forehand with a chiquita, but he missed badly, letting Fan cut the lead to 8-4. However, he was able to regather himself and cruise to a 11-4 victory to level it at 2-2.

Game 5

Consistent with his post-game comments, Fan played better in game 5 and was simply more polished than Lin throughout the game. The game opened quite closely with the score level at 3-3. However, Fan went on to win six of the next seven points off a combination of long rallies, clean counters, and errors from Lin. Down 9-4, Lin took a chance at an aggressive roll that paid off to narrow the lead to 9-5 with Lin to serve. However, Fan put his foot on Lin’s comeback hopes with a clean chiquita to the forehand that caught Lin off guard, and then Lin finished himself off by missing his own serve long, giving Fan the fifth game 11-5.

Game 6

Both players started reaching into their bag of tricks in game 6. At 3-2, Fan pushed off the forehand side of the table for the first time in the match. Lin looped it into the net, giving Fan a 4-2 advantage. Fan then executed a rare long fast serve at 4-3 and won the ensuing rally to keep the advantage at 5-3. Lin then tried out a new serve from the middle of the table, but Fan was still able to get the long backhand opening and force Lin out of position to take a 6-3 lead. After missing a serve return into the net to cut the lead to 6-4, Fan was able to extend this lead to 8-4 with a long rally and a hard wide opening.

Lin took a gamble with a rare long fast serve that Fan missed to cut it to 8-5, causing Fan to call time-out. Lin then won a fast counter-loop rally to narrow it to 8-6 in an eery reminder of game 3 but with the roles reversed. However, Lin then missed a forehand flick to extend the lead to 9-6. Fan continued to show his superiority on the short game as he opened against a push from Lin that went a bit too long to take a 10-6 lead. He then landed a well-placed chiquita to Lin’s elbow that Lin missed, giving Fan the game 11-6 and the match 4-2.

A slideshow of several important points in each game are shown in the below Instagram post:

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Confident Tomokazu Harimoto Defeats Ruwen Filus 4-2 To Take WTT Star Contender Title

Not the post you were looking for? A guide to all of Edges and Nets’ coverage of WTT Doha (also known as World Table Tennis (WTT) Middle East Hub and formerly known as ITTF Qatar Open) can be found here.

Check out our finals preview as well: 6 Ruwen Filus Shots to Watch Out For In the WTT Doha Finals.

After falling into an 8-1 hole in game 3, Tomokazu Harimoto won 9 consecutive points to take a 10-8 lead for a chance to take a commanding 3-0 lead in the WTT Star Contender finals against Ruwen Filus before a couple of errors from Harimoto and smart play from Filus cost Harimoto the game. Nevertheless, an unfazed Harimoto came back and played the next several games extremely confidently and aggressively to win the match 11-9, 11-9, 13-15, 11-5, 7-11, 11-8.

With the win, Harimoto takes the WTT Star Contender title at WTT Doha and the 600 world ranking points that come along with it. Combined with his previous lead and disappointing performances by Lin Yun-Ju and Hugo Calderano, Harimoto now appears to be in complete control of the third seed at the Tokyo Olympics. It was a great day for Team Japan as Mima Ito also defeated Feng Tianwei 4-1 to win the WTT Star Contender women’s singles title and cap off an undefeated run at WTT Doha.

It is a disappointing end for Ruwen Filus, but the final result does not take away from his amazing run at this tournament that included upsets over Jang Woojin (WR 12), Jun Mizutani (WR 18), Lin Yun-Ju (WR 6), and Darko Jorgic (WR 31). Filus’ run gave many fans hope that a defensive player could finally win a major men’s singles event again, but he fell just short.

Final results for all World Table Tennis events are available on their website.

Game 1

Harimoto opened the match putting a lot of pressure on Filus as Filus was unable to get many offensive shots in to start the game. As a result, Harimoto jumped to a 9-4 lead. However, Filus then busted out all the tricks in his toolkit: a floater, a step around forehand, a shovel, and twiddle and backhand loop to narrow it to 9-8. Filus landed in a floater wide to Harimoto’s forehand when down 10-9, but Harimoto was able to reach it for a hard forehand winner to take game 1 11-9.

Game 2

Filus started with an early 4-2 lead, but Harimoto leveled it to 4-4 thanks to some help from the net. Filus responded with an edge ball of his own, which sparked a 4-0 run as he landed two amazing attacks and fooled Harimoto with a serve. Down 8-4, Harimoto was the able to stem the bleeding by catching Filus out of position at the elbow. This sparked a 6-0 run from Harimoto as Filus seemed to have no answers. Down 10-8, Filus was able to take one more point to close it to 10-9, but then missed a floater to lose the second game 11-9 as well.

Game 3

Filus seemed to rattle Harimoto’s confidence to read his shots to start game 3 as Harimoto opened the game very push-happy. Filus was able to take advantage and built up a large 8-1 lead. However, a beautiful rally at 8-2 by Harimoto helped spark a 4-0 run, prompting Filus to call time-out up 8-5. Harimoto then got a net ball immediately coming out of the time-out, and then Filus missed a pair of forehand loops to level it at 8-8. Harimoto was able to win a couple of chopping exchanges to put himself up 10-8, but then missed two of his own loops to make it deuce. A lucky ball, a floater, and two nice chopping exchanges were enough for Filus to take game 3 15-13.

Game 4

After three consecutive two-point games, an aggressive Harimoto was able to force Filus into three early lobbing rallies en route to an early 6-3 lead. Harimoto never looked back as he extended his lead and cruised to a comfortable 11-5 victory.

Game 5

Game 5 was Filus’ turn to win comfortably as errors from Harimoto allowed Filus to build a 7-2 lead. However, Harimoto never got as push-happy as he did in Game 3, and a confident Harimoto was able to land in some nice shots to close the gap to 8-6. However, a couple more looping errors from Harimoto gave Filus some breathing room as he took game 5 11-7.

Game 6

Despite his many errors in the previous game, a confident Harimoto opened game 6 aggressively to build a 6-3 lead in spite of a lucky net ball from Filus. However, Harimoto then made two critical looping errors to narrow it to 6-5 and then called time-out. Filus didn’t even need to attack to reclaim the lead as Harimoto made two more errors coming out of the time-out, making it 7-6 in favor of Filus. However, Harimoto then got a lucky net ball himself to level it to 7-7. After winning two out of three chopping exchanges to take a 9-8 lead, Harimoto appeared to have the momentum. Filus then looped another ball out to give Harimoto double match point at 10-8. Harimoto only needed one as he won the next chopping exchange to take the sixth game 11-8 and along with it the match and title.

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How Korean Teenager Shin Yubin (WR 94) Upset Japanese Star Miu Hirano (WR 12) At WTT Doha

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Shin Yubin (WR 94) continued her sensational run at WTT Star Contender in WTT Doha as she defeated Miu Hirano (WR 12) 11-4, 13-11, 4-11, 11-7 in the round of 16 in a preview of a potential Olympic team semi-final match-up. Shin will play national teammate Jeon Jihee in the quarter-finals.

It is yet another disappointing loss for Hirano in 2021. After a loss to a lower-ranked (granted, Shin is massively underraetd) potential Olympic rival, Hirano’s continued slump has to be raising alarm bells for Japanese team coaches.

The most alarming aspect of this loss for Hirano is that Shin just felt better. Shin dictated the pace of the game and relentlessly attacked Hirano’s elbow, and there seemed little that Hirano could do about it. Shin also appeared to dominate the rallies, and the match ended up being as close as it was largely due to some tricky play by Hirano and what felt like Shin being a bit predictable in game 3.

To get a feel for how concentrated Shin’s attacks to the elbow were, Edges and Nets found that 18 out of 28 (64%) of Shin’s attempted openings were directed at Hirano’s elbow, while only 9 out of 33 (27%) of Hirano’s attempted openings were directed at Shin’s elbow (Hirano mainly attacked both wings). Shin’s mid-rally shots and long serves also targeted Hirano’s elbow.

While the numbers may make it look like Hirano was more aggressive than Shin, they belie the fact that Shin served long roughly twice as often (ten times to five times) than Hirano did in anticipation of a soft opening, which may have reflected her confidence in winning the longer rallies.

Hirano did not help herself in the first game by missing a total of five serve returns and giving a couple of sloppy serves that Shin was able to kill for winners. This included the four early missed serve returns shown below that allowed Shin to build a 7-2 lead and then cruise to a 11-4 victory. In contrast, Shin did not miss a single serve return this game.

The serve return disparity slightly evened out in the second game, and Shin was able to build a 10-7 lead thanks to aggressive play to the elbow like in the clip shown below.

However, Hirano almost stole game two by reaching into her bag of tricks on the serve return: a strawberry to the elbow at 8-10, her first deep push to the backhand of the match at 9-10, and a weird soft floater at 10-11.

After getting her fifth game point at 12-11, Shin apparently had enough with Hirano’s tricks, served a fast long serve to and converted the game point by dominating the ensuing rally.

In the third game, Hirano appeared to better anticipate Shin’s attacks to the elbow as she handled it with a combination of hard step-around forehands and concentrated well-placed blocking. Combined with some additional surprise plays such as another long deep push to Shin’s backhand at 5-3, Hirano was able to build a 8-3 lead and then cruise to a 11-4 victory.

Shin opened up game four with two wide openings to the backhand that Hirano was not expecting. In particular, in the first point shown below, you can see that Hirano’s hand and feet appear to be cheating early towards a step around forehand and she’s completely caught off guard by Shin’s decision.

By diversifying her openings a bit, Shin was able to neutralize Hirano’s anticipation advantage, and in a raw rally, Shin appeared to have the advantage as she walked her way into an 11-7 victory to take the match 3-1. She will face Jeon Jihee in the next round, where she will get the opportunity to stamp herself as the face and future of Korean women’s table tennis.

Shin Yubin dominates the rally en route to her game 4 victory.

The full match is available on WTT/ITTF’s Youtube channel. Full tournament results are available on the WTT website.

Here is an Instagram summary of this post:

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An Jaehyun Avenges WTTC Semi-Final Loss With 3-0 Win Over Mattias Falck

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Mattias Falck (WR 8) forced An Jaehyun back from the table and out of view of WTT’s beloved new camera angle, but An still managed to take the point with a pair of hard forehand counter-loops from deep to go up 10-7 and 2-0 in games for triple match point. He only needed one as an aggressive An Jaehyun avenged his 2019 World Championship semi-final loss to Mattias Falck with a comfortable 3-0 (11-8, 11-9, 11-7) victory in the round of 32 in WTT Star Contender at WTT Doha.

It was a stellar performance from An as his national teammates struggled: Lee Sangsu (WR 22) was upset 3-1 by Anton Kallberg (WR 58), Jang Woojin (WR 11) was upset by Ruwen Filus (WR 42), and Jeoung Youngsik (WR 13) squeaked by deuce in the fifth against Kirill Gerassimenko (WR 46). Falck is the highest ranked player that a Korean player of either gender has beaten so far at WTT Doha.

The full match can be watched on WTT/ITTF’s Youtube channel.

Game 1

Falck started the first point of the match with a strategy he would rely on throughout the game: a wide push or block to An’s forehand would force a step-around-happy An to put up a weak forehand opening, and then Falck would quickly roll it back wide to An’s backhand. Falck was able to build an early 3-0 lead, but An was able to pull off seven points in a row off very aggressive forehand loops to take a 7-3 lead. A pair of points when An lead 9-7 provided a perfect summary of the game: Falck won a point with a wide push to the forehand followed by a wide crosscourt backhand roll to cut it to 9-8, and then An won a point with a hard step-around forehand to bring it back up to 10-8. Down 10-8 Falck tried to mix things up with a serve from the forehand side, but he missed a block against An’s soft opening after a brief short-push exchange, giving An the game 11-8.

Game 2

Falck won the first two points with a pair of smart serves, but then again lost four points in a row to go down 4-2. He won the next two points to level it to 4-4, prompting An to ask for a COVID timeout, (i.e. where a player effectively gets an extra mini-break by asking the umpire to “wipe down” the table). At 5-5, An then served a long fast serve and took the ensuing backhand-backhand rally, and then Falck missed a short backhand opening to go down 7-5. Falck was able to kill a weak push from An on the next point, but then missed two consecutive half-long backhand openings to go down 9-6, prompting him to wipe the table in frustration.

An missed an attempt at a step-around forehand kill, and then Falck won two more points off of smart service play, including a risky long fast serve to An’s forehand, to level it at 9-9. However, An would take the last two points to take the second game 11-9 as Falck threw his paddle in disgust after missing another backhand opening.

Game 3

An Jaehyun stole the first point with a down the line long fast serve to Falck’s forehand, but Falck hit several nice rallies and wide shots to take a 5-2 lead. An then took a couple of rallies to level it to 6-6. An then whiffed a backhand loop against a slower than expected block from Falck, putting Falck up 7-6. Falck then missed a short push and a block, causing him to call a time-out down 8-7. The time-out was of no avail as An won the next three points to complete a 5-0 winning streak and take the match 11-8, 11-9, 11-7.

Notes

  • Falck appears not to be a fan of the COVID time-out as he wiped the table himself several times. The umpire did not give him a yellow card, a decision that Edges and Nets agrees with given our “let them play” attitude and skepticism over the effectiveness of banning table-touching from preventing coronavirus spread (you’re just calling a socially distant umpire to walk up right next to you to touch the table for you!). However, others may have wished to see existing COVID restrictions enforced more strictly.
  • An will get the chance to avenge Lee Sangsu in a round of 16 match-up with Anton Kallberg
  • Despite his great performances recently, An will not be participating in the Tokyo Olympics after losing out in the Korean Olympic Trials on what essentially was a technicality, giving his fans a massive case of second lead syndrome.

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Mima Ito Wins WTT Doha Event With 4-2 Finals Win Over Hina Hayata

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For more coverage of the WTT Contender women’s singles finals, check out our preview and our post-game analysis.

Tied 2-2 in games, Mima Ito (WR 3) and Hina Hayata (WR 29) both reached into their bag of tricks as Ito eked out a gutsy 11-9 win in a pivotal game 5 en route to a 11-9, 11-8, 6-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-6 finals victory over Hayata. With the win Ito, has captured the first ever World Table Tennis (i.e. rebranded ITTF) Title in the WTT Contender Event at WTT Doha. The qualification draw of WTT Star Contender, the second and more prestigious event at WTT Doha, is already underway and will be ongoing throughout the week.

The victory is slightly dimmed due to the withdrawal of Sun Yingsha and Liu Shiwen and general lack of star-power among Ito’s opponents (none of her opponents were in the top 20 although Hayata likely deserves to be in it). However, Ito was still able to make a small statement; while all the other top seeds in the event were getting upset left and right, Ito was able to stay steady take care of business. If everyone has similar showings in WTT Star Contender event, Ito can make the case for why she is arguably the ONLY serious threat to Chinese supremacy at the Tokyo Olympics.

Game 1

Ito opened the match very aggressively, which initially cost her as she missed several aggressive forehand smashes to go down 7-3. However, her shots suddenly started landing and went on a 8-2 run to take the game 11-9. Save for a net ball when down 7-4 (which itself was in the middle of an offensive rally), all of Ito’s last eight points were won off of aggressive wide openings or ambitious forehand smashes. Both the points she lost were a result of her missing her own forehand smash.

Game 2

Ito’s aggressive style carried into game 2, but thanks to a couple early service and return errors and a missed smash, Hayata was able to open up an early 5-3 lead that could have been larger if not for a couple of her own easier backhand errors.

Ito then won four points in a row to take a 7-5 lead. Two of these points followed the same strategy of allowing Hayata to open with her backhand against a short ball to the center and then smashing the ball back hard for the winner after anticipating its location.

Ito would use the same play again at 8-7 to maintain a 9-7 lead. Ito then surprised Hayata with a short push; Hayata rushed when stepping in and flicked the ball into the net, giving Ito three game points at 10-7. Ito missed a forehand smash to cut it to 10-8, but Hayata then missed a forehand flick on the serve return to lose the game 11-8.

Game 3

Similar to game 1, Ito continued to be aggressive and go for hard and wide forehand smashes, but missed several of them. Hayata also added some extra twists to her short game including a half-long push at 3-2 and a surprise forehand flick at 6-3 that, combined with Ito’s errors, were enough for Hayata to go up 9-3.

Ito was able to win two points on her own serve to cut it to 9-5. Hayata then served long to Ito’s elbow but missed the block when Ito stepped around to smash it to her backhand. On the very next point, Hayata trusted her long serve and anticipation again as she served a long serve again to Ito’s elbow, but this time a little further to the backhand, and when Ito stepped around and hit it to Hayata’s backhand, Hayata was ready for a wide block to Ito’s forehand for the winner.

Ito was able to catch Hayata with a long serve on the next point, but Hayata’s surprised return carried some weird spin and neither player seemed to know what was on the ball for a couple shots before Ito went for the smash and hit it out the table, giving game 3 to Hayata 11-6.

Game 4

Hayata showed some great anticipation and killed several of Ito’s openings as she built a 6-3 lead. However, Hayata then missed her own serve, lost a weird point after a net ball, and then lost a great rally to level it at 6-6. However, Hayata was unfazed as she continued to show great anticipation and smack down many of Ito’s openings and fool Ito with her long serves to cruise to an 10-7 lead.

However, a winning serve return from Ito and a missed serve return by Hayata cut the lead to 10-9. Ito calmly asked for her second “covid timeout” of a game (i.e. where a player effectively gets an extra mini-break by asking the umpire to “wipe down” the table), and what appeared to be a rattled Hayata then called a real timeout.

Hayata then opened with a chiquita to Ito’s wide backhand and then hit a hard wide backhand winner against the soft return to take the game 11-9.

Game 5

Neither player was able to take control the pace of the game like Ito in games 1 and 2 or Hayata in games 3 and 4. Ito had the slight edge in rallies, allowing her to build 8-6 lead. It was around at this point that both players appeared to bust out their bags of tricks.

Hayata won a point off a tricky half-long serve, and Ito took the next point with a short, high, and very strange chop block that Hayata hit into the net. Hayata then won the next point with a strawberry flick to cut the lead to 9-8. Each player then won a point off the third ball following great anticipation, resulting in a 10-9 lead for Ito with Hayata to serve. Ito then opted for a short push instead of the backhand flick that Hayata was expecting on the serve return, and Hayata missed the following push as Ito eked out a clutch 11-9 win in a pivotal game 5.

Game 6

Game 6 got off to a strange start. Hayata first won a beautiful rally before missing her own serve to level it at 1-1. Ito then caught a net ball and a pretty wide block to take a 3-1 lead. Hayata then proceeded to serve long on all four of her next four serves and lost all four points. However, Ito returned the favor by losing four straight of her own serves, including a missed serve.

Hayata was able to get narrow the lead one more point to 7-6 with a deep push to Ito’s backhand before dropping the next point to g o down 8-6. Hayta then missed a serve return and then lost the next point after Ito got a net ball, giving Ito quadruple match point at 10-6. Hayata’s shoulders slumped in frustration, and although it looked like she had gathered herself together for the next point, her serve was a bit high, and Ito killed the serve with a wide punch to Hayata’s forehand.

This sequence capped off a 5-0 streak for Ito in what was otherwise a close and unpredictable game. She thus took the match 4-2, and with it, the first ever WTT title (WTT Macau does not count because the rules were a complete gimmick).

Notes

On the men’s singles side, Dimitrij Ovtcharov captured the title with a 4-1 win over Lin Yun-Ju.

Ito missed three of her own serves and Hayata missed two. It’s unclear why whether the large number of missed serves was due to nervousness, rustiness, or a change in routine due to covid restrictions (e.g. no touching the table).

Either Ito sweats a lot or she really likes making use of the so-called covid timeout.

Edges and Net previously released a rudimentary statistical analysis of the Hayata vs Ito match-up. We will shortly follow up on how these trends held at WTT Doha in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

The outfits this time were significantly better than whatever they were wearing at the All Japan National Championships in January, which can be seen in our Instagram post below. Between these National Championship outfits and Harimoto’s tendency to dress like a fruit with his monochromatic color schemes, Edges and Nets is not a huge fan of Team Japan’s fashion choice.

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Lin Yun-Ju Staves Off Quadri Aruna Comeback On Path To WTT Contender Finals

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After blowing four match points while up 2-0, Lin regrouped and closed out game 4 to win his quarter-final match-up against Quadri Aruna 11-8,11-9, 15-17, 11-9 en route to the WTT Contender finals. Lin would go on to defeat Simon Gauzy 4-1 in the semi-finals to book a ticket to the finals against Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

Game 1

Lin jumped to a 6-0 lead thanks to a missed serve and weak service return game from Aruna. Aruna was able to land his first pair of points with a long fast serve to Lin’s forehand and then a step around kill against a chiquita from Lin. However, despite winning a couple more rallies, Aruna was unable to narrow the gap further as he made all sorts of short game errors up until 10-6. Lin went for a long fast serve and completely caught Aruna off guard but then missed the easy follow up loop. However, Lin was able to close out the game 11-8 after blocking several hard loops from Aruna.

Game 2

Aruna’s early-point struggles continued in game 2 as he missed a serve and a serve return that put him in a 3-0 hole. Lin then had his own series of missed openings and blocks as Aruna took a 4-3 lead. The game then progressed quite evenly as Lin generally tried to land his openings into Aruna’s elbow in order to take advantage of the next shot, while Aruna tried to force Lin to step to his forehand to take a chiquita against the half-long before hitting a hard and wide counter to the backhand of forehand. With Lin’s serve at 9-9, he was able to take the game with a wide chiquita winner to the forehand after a short push from Aruna followed by a soft wide opening to Aruna’s backhand against which an overly ambitious Aruna missed a hard step-around forehand counterloop, giving the game to Lin 11-9.

Game 3

Service and service return problems seemed to vanish in the third game as both players appeared to land solid pushes and openings to where they wanted them. Lin appeared to hold the slight edge in these counterlooping and third ball attack battles, taking a 10-8 lead. However, whether because Lin was nervous or Aruna changed his serve or by random chance, Lin suddenly missed a serve return at 10-8, and then gave two weak chiquitas at 10-9 and (and despite calling time-out just before the point) 11-10 that Aruna easily disposed of. 

Aruna missed a service return push of his own at 12-12 and 13-13 to give Lin his fourth and fifth match point, but both times Aruna saved it by killing Lin’s weak opening against Aruna’s long serve. A couple misses by Lin and hard winners by Aruna later, Aruna took the third game 17-15.

Game 4

Lin regrouped for game four as he started putting in much stronger openings, particularly his loops against Aruna’s half long serve and chiquitas against Aruna’s short serves to the forehand, than he did at the end of game 3. Aruna was able to build a 6-4 lead, but a couple hard chiquitas from Lin allowed him to go on a three point run, prompting Aruna to call time-out down 6-7. Lin won the next point off the time-out, but Aruna then caught a break with a net ball and then won a long rally on the next point to level it at 8-8.

Aruna served two half-long serves wide to Lin’s forehand, and Lin took both with a chiquita back to Aruna’s backhand and managed to split the points. Serving at 9-9, Lin landed a hard opening to Aruna’s elbow to take match point number 5, and then Aruna whiffed a backhand opening to give Lin the match 3-1.

Notes

Our tournament preview pegged Lin as an interesting match-up for Ovtcharov due to the familiarity between the two players and Lin’s recent dominance over Ovtcharov in international competition. If Lin can get in another comfortable win in the finals, he will certainly have a significant mental edge should the two meet in the Tokyo Olympics.

Lin’s quarter-final match against Aruna was the only match involving either Lin or Ovtcharov that was not broadcast on Table 1. Edges and Nets is working on finding a reliable method to cover Table 1 matches.

In the women’s singles event, Hina Hayata will play Mima Ito in the finals.

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Unless stated otherwise, all images and footage in this post can respectively be found on ITTF’s Flickr page and ITTF’s Youtube Channel.

Officiating Controversy Plagues Cho Daesong’s 3-2 Win Over Andreas Levenko

Not the post you were looking for? A guide to all of Edges and Nets’ coverage of WTT Doha (also known as WTT Middle East Hub and formerly known as ITTF Qatar Open) can be found here.

A brief summary of all Day 2 action and preview of Day 3 can be found here.

“Your eyes are so bad,” remarked Andreas Levenko (WR 144) to the umpire in reference to perceived lopsidedness over the umpire’s service call faults after losing 11-6, 13-11, 9-11, 4-11, 11-8 to Cho Daesong (WR 141) in the round of 16. It was an unfortunate conclusion as questionable sportsmanship from Levenko and officiating decisions from the umpire marred what should have been an exciting match between two young and up-and-coming players.

Game 1

The first game opened quite even as both players got a feel for each other up to 5-5. Then the game turned into one of serve and receive as Levenko missed two service returns to go down 7-5. Cho then landed a wide chiquita on the service return to go up 8-5. Levenko switched to a tomahawk serve that Cho popped up, and Levenko killed the high ball to narrow it to 8-6. Levenko then pushed a serve from Cho off the table and then against the serve gave a weak push that Cho killed to go up 10-6. Levenko missed an opening on the next point to lose the first game 11-6.

Game 2

Cho was first to serve in game 2 and missed two openings to go down 0-2 but leveled the score to 2-2 off of two long rallies. They then split the next two points as Levenko landed a hard chiquita on the first serve return and pushed the second serve into the net.Levenko then got called for a service fault for hiding the ball with his body (or hand?) to put Cho up 4-3.

For the next few points the players appared to evenly exchange points on standard openings and blocks up until Cho led 9-7 with serve. Up until this point, Levenko was an extremely good sport, noting that the umpire had erroneously awarded a point to him instead of Cho.

Levenko then popped up a service return to make it 10-7 and then complained to the umpire that Cho was blocking the serve with his hand. Levenko landed a solid half-long opening on the next serve return to save the first game point.

Whether due to tactics or out of concern of being called for a service fault, Levenko switched to a tomahawk serve for the rest of the game. Cho missed both his service returns at 10-8 to make it to deuce. However, Cho would still end up taking the second game 13-11 to take a 2-0 lead after Levenko popped up a service return at 10-10 and pushed a serve into the net at 12-11. After losing the game, Levenko made a frustrated motion about Cho blocking the serve with his hand.

Game 3

Levenko opened the third game with two long fast serves that he converted into a 3-0 lead, which he was able to extend into a 4-1 lead. However, Levenko missed a block when he tried again for a long fast serve, and after Levenko gave a weak chiquita and pushed serve return in to the net, the score was tied 4-4.

Levenko switched to a tomahawk serve, but Cho was able to win the point following a soft opening. Having lost four straight points, Levenko called timeout. However, immediately after the time-out, Levenko was faulted for blocking his pendulum serve, prompting him to yell at the umpire, “come on, what the f****? you take my serve but he serves like this,” making a hand blocking motion to describe Cho’s serve. The umpire obviously gave Levenko a yellow card, which he sarcastically encouraged with a thumbs up. Levenko milked the most out of the yellow card with one last rage throw of the ball onto the floor.

Video of Levenko’s outburst

Levenko was able to calm himself down and land a hard counter-loop in on the next point, sparking a 5-0 run in which he exclusively used his tomahawk serve. Levenko would use a tomahawk serve for the rest of the game as he cruised to a 11-9 victory.

Game 4

Levenko started game 4 more fired up with a hard counter-loop as he started cho’ing louder whenever he won. He continued to use the tomahawk serve. Levenko was able to win his first two service points, but then lost the next to, resulting in a 4-4 score.

Levenko continued to hit agressive and hard openings and counterloops while Cho missed a couple easier openings as Levenko closed out the game on a 7-0 run to win 11-4.

Game 5

Levenko’s fiery nature carried into game 5 as he won the first point with a hard counterloop (many fans have complained about the camera angle already, but it has to be noted yet again that we were unable to watch a great point because Levenko was off-camera).

Cho was able to stop the 8-0 losing streak with a great counterloop rally of his own. Cho was unable to win either of his own service points and then missed a serve return against Levenko’s tomahawk, prompting him to call time-out down 4-1.

Cho came out of the time-out winning three points in a row, including another nice counterloop rally, to tie it up at 4-4. After losing his fourth point in a row to do gown 5-4, Levenko tried switching things up by using his regular pendulum serve (the one that the umpire faulted twice), but it was to no avail as he lost his fifth straight point to go down 6-4.

Levenko then popped up a service return and then pushed the next serve return off the table to go down 8-4. After the second return, he again yelled at the umpire to complain about Cho blocking the serve with his hand.

Levenko was able to take some extra time off to slow down the game as both he and Cho agreed that the ball was broken. The stoppage in play ended up breaking Cho’s 7-0 streak as he missed a serve return and then a high ball (although the high ball was following a net shot) to narrow the lead to 8-6.

However, Levenko then popped up another serve and then pushed another serve into the net as he shook his head in visible frustration. Levenko was then able to win the next two points off his own serve, but then after landing a chiquita on the service return at 8-10, he lost the ensuing rally and the match 3-2.

Levenko let out a yell in frustration and afterwards told the umpire that, “your eyes are so bad.”

Edges and Nets generally takes a “let them play” approach and would not have called either of the serves as illegal, especially since from the umpire’s point of view (which happens to be the same as the new controversial camera angle), it is very difficult to make judgement calls on blocking vs non-blocking. In particular, Levenko’s second service fault (the one that caused the outburst) was particularly questionable as the umpire can pretty much only see his back. Perhaps ITTF/WTT should invest in service line judges, which are already present in North American amateur collegiate tournaments.

For what it’s worth. Edges and Nets conducted an informal poll on Instagram of whether Levenko’s serves were illegal, and the audience 53% of the audience said no. However, a couple other professional player at WTT Doha said that they believed that Levenko’s serves were illegal.

Despite the lopsided officiating, Levenko cannot completely blame outside forces as he lost seven straight points in game 5. Credit still has to be given to Cho as he still did play quite well throughout the match and as the controversy did seem to somewhat affect his mental state in the third and fourth game, but he was able to tune out the noise in game 5 and still perform.

Cho Daesong will play Tomokazu Harimoto in the quarterfinals.

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Unless stated otherwise, all images and footage in this post can respectively be found on ITTF’s Flickr page and ITTF’s Youtube Channel.

Hugo Calderano Defeats An Jaehyun 3-1 In Dominant Fashion

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A brief summary of all Day 2 action and preview of Day 3 can be found here.

After dropping the first game 11-9, Hugo Calderano (WR 6) won the next three games in a row against An Jaehyun (WR 39) with dominant finishes in each game: a 5-0 run to close games 2 and 3 and a 6-0 run to close game 4.

The event was on WTT’s official website (subject to media restrictions) at 13:00 Greenwich time on March 4. So far, recordings of Table 1 matches have not been made available online.

Game 1

Calderano started the match with a strategy he would frequently rely on throughout the match: he served two half-long serves to An’s backhand and An gave two weak returns. However, Calderano missed an easy ball on the second point, making it 1-1. However, Calderano would go on to win all of the next five points in which he served.

However, An was able to keep things close by taking the initiative on his serve. After splitting his first two service points thanks to a pretty wide block from Calderano, An would also go on to win the next five points in which he served before rushing a forehand flick against a slightly high ball. Hence, after the first 16 points, the score was tied 8-8.

An was then able to steal two more points on Calderano’s serve with a hard chiquita wide to a forehand and a well-placed soft opening to Calderano’s elbow, giving him a 10-8 lead. Calderano was able to win a service return point back with a hard chiquita of his own to narrow the lead to 10-9. However, Calderano’s next chiquita was just a bit soft, and An was able to step around for a forehand down the line winner to take the first game 11-9.

Game 2

An jumped to a 5-3 lead to start game 2 thanks to some hard openings, a saved net ball, and a service warning against Calderano that made him miss the next serve. An cholaed anyway and clearly violated table tennis karma as Calderano won the next three points off some sloppy short play from An to take a 6-5 lead.

An reclaimed a 7-6 lead with a deep push to Calderano’s forehand and a wide block against Calderano’s chiquita. However, in a preview of the next two games, Calderano won five straight points to win the game 11-7 off a combination of an edge ball, two nice exchanges by Calderano, a missed high short flick by An, and a popped up serve return by An.

Game 3

Game 3 started out similar to Game 1: Calderano continued to attack An’s backhand with half-long serves to take his first five service points before a lucky net at 6-3. An split his first pair of serves due to some crips exchanges by Calderano, but won the next three of his own serves off hard step around forehands and an aggressive push to Calderano’s elbow. When all the dust settled, Calderano held a narrow lead of 6-5.

Calderano then hit a hard chiquita against An to take a 7-5 lead, and then An appeared to yield the initiative to Calderano as he dropped four more straight points, all off of missed blocks against Calderano’s loops. Altogether, Calderano again finished the game on a 5-0 run to take the game 11-5 and a commanding 2-1 lead.

Game 4

Calderano was able to continue taking the initiative to start game 4 and jumped to a 5-2 lead. He then missed a forehand loop, and it looked like that momentum was shifting to An’s side after he narrowed the lead to 5-4 with a beautiful counter-looping rally.

However, the opposite actually happened as Calderano won a beautiful rally of his own to take a 6-4 lead. A popped up service return and a missed forehand flick from An further extended the lead to 8-4. Calderano launched a flurry of attacks to win the next three points in a row as well, capping off a 6-0 run to take the fourth game 11-4 and the match 3-1.

Notes

  • Hugo Calderano was rubbing some kind of ointment on his arm in between games. We are unsure if it is due to injury.
  • Calderano will play his former German Bundesliga teammate Simon Gauzy in the quarterfinals

After the match, Calderano provided the following post-game comments:

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Andreas Levenko UPSETS Injured Liam Pitchford 3-1

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A brief recap of all Day 1 action and Day 2 preview can be found here.

In the biggest upset of the men’s singles event so far, world ranked 144 Andreas Levenko upset sixth seed and world ranked 15 Liam Pitchford 11-4, 11-8, 5-11, 11-7 in the round of 32 in the WTT Contender event at WTT Doha.

Pitchford hurt his hand hitting a half-long ball last week in practice, and as a result he felt pain whenever he used his backhand. He hopes to recover by the start of WTT Star Contender next week. Nevertheless, it is still a great win by Andreas Levenko, who has had a sensational run so far in this tournament.

Game 1

This match started out extremely sloppy as both players missed their own opening. The first point in which something of note happened was when Pitchford pushed a little long to Levenko’s backhand, and Levenko stepped around for a kill to put himself up 7-2. Pitchford then called a “COVID timeout”, which is when a player asks the umpire to wipe the table, giving both players a short break. Both players continued to miss what looked like standard openings until Pitchford won a rally at 3-9. It was too little, too late as Levenko landed two nice points of his own to win 11-4.

Game 2

Levenko won the first three points off hard counterloops against weak openings from Pitchford before missing his own opening. The sloppy play from game 1 continue as the next six points was a series of missed openings and bad decisions that resulted in a 7-3 lead for Levenko. Pitchford won a quick rally to cut the lead to 7-4, but then after exchanging a few more errors the lead was back up to 9-5. Pitchford was able to land in two nice quick backhand rolls that cut the lead to 10-8, but he missed what looked like a standard backhand loop, giving the game to Levenko 11-8.

Game 3

After missing so many chiquitas in the first two games and getting killed on the ones that he did land, in both a tactical and likely injury-conerned move, Pitchford almost completely stopped using chiquitas and mainly pushed in the last two games.

Pitchford hence opened the game looking in better rhythm as he started winning several longer rallies and not giving Levenko any soft shots to the forehand or elbow to kill. However, he continued to make sloppy errors including two missed pushes, keeping the score tight up until 5-4. The next few points ended up with several quick mid-length rallies that saw Pitchford lead 7-5.

Levenko then tried a funky sidespin strawberry service return to Pitchford’s elbow, but Pitchford was able to win the point on the next shot anyway to go up 8-5. Levenko would continue to try out weirder stuff to close the game, including two tomahawk serves when down 9-5. Perhaps Levenko’s goal was to disrupt Pitchford’s rhythm, but if his goal was to win points, his plan failed as he missed the third ball on both his tomahawk serves to lose the game 11-5.

Game 4

Levenko himself also stopped trying out chiquitas and also started pushing short. Without the threat of Pitchford’s fast chiquita, Levenko was able to step around almost every point in the fourth game to land his strong forehand opening. After several sequences of varying success stepping around the corner for a forehand opening and then crossing over for Pitchford’s wide block to the forehand, Levenko found himself up 4-3.

Levenko then caught a net, but lost the point anyway. Then Pitchford caught a net ball, but lost the point anyway, bringing the score to 5-4. Pitchford leveled the score to 5-5 with a nice backhand roll, but lost the next two points off a weak short game, prompting him to call time out.

However, the timeout brought no change in momentum as both players continued to exchange points until 9-7. Levenko served a short shovel serve to Pitchford’s center and took advantage of the weak chiquita return from Pitchford to take a 10-7 lead for three match points. Levenko then served a half-long serve to Pitchford’s forehand and then took advantage again of Pitchford’s weak loop against the half-long. This gave the game to 11-7 and the match 3-1 to Levenko.

Levenko will be playing Cho Daesong in the round of 16, and both players have to be excited that they are playing someone outside the top 100. Cho is only 18, and he had a high profile win over An Jaehyun (WR 39) and pushed Jeoung Youngsik (WR 13) to seven games at the recent Korean Olympic Trials. This is a golden opportunity for both of them to advance to the quarterfinals and face the winner between Harimoto and Lee Sangsu.

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Unless stated otherwise, all images and footage in this post can respectively be found on ITTF’s Flickr page and ITTF’s Youtube Channel.

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