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“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.