I, for one, welcome our new Table Tennis Chinese overlord.
Chinese players Wang Hao and Zhang Jike filled the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands with Chinese fans today for the final match of the Men’s Singles event of the 2011 World Table Tennis Championships. In the semifinals, Wang Hao posted a 4-2 victory against teammate Ma Long while Zhang Jike overcame the strongest European player Timo Boll by an score of 4-1.
Throughout the final match, Zhang Jike (world's #3) showed his best form and obviously had an edge in terms of performance and effectiveness. On the other hand, while the defending champion Wang Hao (world's #1) fought very hard and showed great courage to revert difficult situations, he couldn't stop Zhang Jike on his path to seize the Men's Singles World Championships.
Zhang Jike 4 - 2 Wang Hao (12-10,11-7,6-11,9-11,11-5,14-12)
Zhang started the first game with a few errors which benefited Wang Hao to get an early advantage of 3-0, but he quickly redeemed himself and tied in 4-4. Then Zhang Jike's show started, deploying all his talent through great footwork, lethal angles forehand shots, intricate services and an smart strategy of early blocking the so-called "banana" shots by Wang Hao, which are always a big pain for his opponents. Thanks to all this, Zhang Jike reached the game point ahead of Wang with a 10-8 score. After a fantastic rally, Wang Hao managed to save that advantage and tied in 10-10. However, Zhang got the following 2 points and won the game 12-10.
Zhang Jike maintained his momentum and used his confidence to dominate at the start of the second game. He posted an impressive lead of 6-1, which in most part of the circuits would have been definite advantage. But not against the #1 player in the world, who successfully closed the gap to 7-8. Anyway, Zhang Jike was on fire and with a powerful flick shot he got his second game in the match by 11-7.
A 2-0 victory in the World Championships' final against Wang Hao, world's #1 and until then World Champion, would have been a confidence booster for anybody. But Wang Hao's strong mental control is one of his main weapons, one that Wang effectively used three days ago to get back at his duel against Ryu Seung Min and finally win the match. And so he was determined to turn around the scoreboard.
At the start of the third game, Wang Hao nailed the first two points but Zhang quickly answered back getting his first one with an amazing forehand sidespin. But then, Zhang got stuck in that lonely point while Wang Hao took absolute control over the table setting the score to 7-1. Zhang managed to get three more points but he was behind Wang Hao 8-4 anyway. Zhang Jike lost his focus and his confidence, and for the first time in the match, Wang Hao reached game point and ended the round with a powerful forehand topspin in 11-6.
In the fourth game Zhang started leading by 4-2 while Wang Hao immediately caught up and tied 4-4, then in 6-6. Zhang fought hard and took a decent two-point lead in 9-7 towards the end of the round but Wang narrowed the deficit to 8-9 before Zhang called for a timeout. He needed to become calm again and stop the momentum Wang Hao was gaining. But the short pause didn’t benefit Zhang after Wang tied 9-9 and eventually took over the round with an 11-9 advantage. The match was even 2-2.
The fifth game started. The two Chinese players fought very closely at the start and got even at 4-4. However, Zhang managed to recover the confidence he showed in the first two games and start to impose his better form throughout the game getting a lead of 6-4. Wang Hao couldn't cope with his opponent and eventually Zhang Jike posted his third victory in the match with an 11-5 score.
Wang Hao was just 11 points away from losing his crown. It was imperative to react appropriately.
But Zhang Jike was on his day, and with a powerful backhand topspin he got the first point of the sixth game. Then managed to get an advantage of 3-2 and quickly administered that advantage through the game to get at a 10-5 score. It was 5 Championship points.
Zhang Jike looked calm, event arrogant after putting himself at the edge of getting the World Championship. But Wang Hao once again deployed his strong mentality and managed to steal Zhang Jike's advantage and even the score at 10-10.
Drama was unleashed. Would Zhang Jike let escape the World Title after almost having it on his pocket?
Zhang Jike got back to the match and gained a sixth match point. But Wang Hao responded with a fantastic backhand shot to even the score first, and then getting the advantage after Zhang Jike committed an unforced error. Suddenly things were upside down with Wang Hao leading 11-12 but Zhang Jike wanted to win and keep the calm for the next point where it was Wang Hao the one who committed unforced error and lost his advantage. 12-12.
Both players were cautious. Zhang Jike served and then shot a soft forehand topspin to Wang Hao's backhand that wasn't returned. It was Championship Point again, the seventh.
In the final point, Wang Hao quickly tried to attack Zhang Jike, but Zhang responded with a quick attack against Wang Hao's backhand which he couldn't cope with, getting his return on the net.
It was over. Zhang Jike won.
After the match, Zhang jumped out of happiness and surprisingly turned the Table Tennis court into a soccer field after stripping his clothes off as a sign of celebration and relief. Something that greatly contrasts with the usual, restrained celebration of other Chinese world champions.
Zhang Jike is now the new Men's Singles Table Tennis World Champion. Furthermore, he also completed the sweep of gold medals by his team, just how former Chinese coach Cai Zhenhua didn't want to.
Cross-posted from Zhang Jike is the New World Champion!, in tabletennista.com.