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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: