Today, May 12, 2011, the men’s singles event on the 2011 World Table Tennis Championships reached the round of 16. One of the most important matches was between China’s Wang Hao, current World's #1 and World Champion, and Ryu Seung Min from South Korea. The two players have encountered each other many times during their careers, being particularly important Ryu's victory on the final of the 2004 Olympics over Wang. On the other side, most of the times Wang Hao stood victoriorius and this match was one of those.
Wang Hao (CHN) 4 - 3 Ryu Seung Min (KOR) (10-12,11-6,11-8,8-11,7-11,11-3,11-6)
The Korean earned the first two points at the start of the first round however Wang Hao immediately recovered and tied in 3-3, then in 4-4. After the tie, Ryu Seung Min scored two straight points and led to 6-4. The Korean continued to maintain a steady lead and reached 9-7. However, Wang Hao came back into the game just in time in 9-9. After the tie, Wang Hao reached the match point but Ryu Seung Min quickly tied in 10-10. Ryu Seung Min then scored two straight points eventually ending the round with 12-10.
Similar to the first round, Ryu Seung Min got the first two points in the second round with Wang Hao immediately catching up in 3-3, then in 4-4. The Korean looked confident but after the tie, Wang Hao got his first lead in the round with 6-4. It was then when Wang Hao took the control of the match increasing his lead to 9-5. This time, Wang Hao didn’t allow the Korean to get closer and ended the round in 11-6.
On the third round, Wang Hao earned the first point after a powerful reverse backhand topspin, a shot that was very strange just 10 years but that was widely popularized by Wang Hao himself among penholder players. However, Ryu Seung Min fought closely and tied in 2-2, then in 3-3. After the tie, Wang Hao posted a two point lead 5-3, then in 6-4. Wang Hao managed to increase his lead to 7-4 but Ryu Seung Min quickly narrowed the gap to 5-7, then eventually closing the gap to 8-8. After the tie, Wang Hao scored two straight points and reached match point in 10-8. Wang Hao ended the third round with an 11-8 score and things were looking bright for the World Champion...
But things wouldn't keep that way for too long. The two players continued to play very strong rallies at the start of the fourth round and tied in 2-2, then in 5-5. After the tie, Ryu Seung Min scored three straight points and led to 8-5. Wang Hao immediately narrowed the gap to 7-8, then in 8-9. This time, Ryu Seung Min reached match point the first in 10-8 and immediately got the round by an score of 11-8, thus finishing this set that was sort of full of unforced errors on both sides, specially the Chinese.
During that last set, Ryu was looking confident but he was showing early signs of his lack of mental control skills, going very quickly from being on fire winning several straight rallies to show a lot of concern when Wang Hao managed to score a single point. Later on the match this was a key factor on the defeat of the Korean.
After the tie in 2-2, both players continued to play an interesting fight in the fifth round. Ryu Seung Min, this time, came back very confident on his skills and took control over the table with a solid lead of 8-2, after which Wang Hao scored two straight points to reach 4-8. Ryu Seung Min was again showing he couldn't keep calm easily even when having a big advantage, but he managed to reach the match point with a four point lead in 10-6. Wang Hao scored one more point before Ryu Seung Min ended the round to 11-7.
The score was 2-3 favoring the Korean and Wang Hao surely recalled that famous Olympics final between him and Ryu Seung Min, where the Ryu was the absolute controller of the match. This time things were a lot different but Ryu Seung Min seems to have the key to challenge Wang and put himself just one set away of leaving world's #1 out of the competition.
And the 6th round started. After lagging behind 2-3 against the Korean paddler, Wang Hao was under a lot of pressure. But something unexpected happened: the Korean coach was surprisingly asked to leave the court after accused of giving instructions to Ryu while at play. This condition seemed to help Wang Hao who gained some momentum and found his confidence back, while clearly didn't help Ryu who was now alone in the court. Wang took control of the match again and got a solid lead of 8-3 and this time he was unstoppable during literally dominating the score board posting an impressive final score of 11-3. In other words he unexpectly swept with Ryu just one round after the Korean was severely threating his dominance in this 2011 WTTC and the World Ranking.
Score was now even at 3-3. And Table Tennis fans around the world saw how Wang Hao was getting instructions from his coach Liu Guoliang, a past World and Olympics Champion himself, while Ryu Seung Min was alone drinking some water and looking at the empty chair of his coach, just before going back to the court to fight in the 7th and final round.
Wang Hao came back strong and earned the first point. However, Ryu Seung Min showed a really good playing condition and despite being coach-less, still managed to exchange powerful attacks with Wang Hao. The two players tied in 3-3. After the tie, Wang Hao took lead in 5-3, then 6-4. Ryu now was looking very concerned, making unforced errors and starting to watch his racket's rubbers as like trying to understand why the shoots weren't working as expected. Anyway, the Korean narrowed the Chinese lead to 6-7 after which Liu Guoliang called for a timeout to force a pause in the rhytm the Korean was starting to show. Ryu was again alone and showing very nervous while Wang Hao looked strong and calm while getting words from his coach. They came back to the court and the lack of focus of Ryu proved to be his biggest dissadvantage, preventing him to score again and thus leaving the control to Wang Hao who quickly ended the round, and the match, with a 11-6 score.
Ryu Seung Min was indeed an excellent fighter in the match, however Wang Hao is still the world's best player. Both guys exuded a great deal of skill and stamina after reaching seven full rounds. Anyway, Ryu Seung Min's journey has ended while Wang Hao successfully reached the quarterfinals of 2011 WTTC men's singles competition, where he will face Japan's best player Jun Mizutani on his way to the semifinals.
Check below a highlights video with the best points of this match.