China Open: Olympic Defeat Avenged

WANG Liqin is Men's Singles Champion

ITTF Pro Tour

The last time that WANG Hao faced WANG Liqin was in the Menís Singles semi-final at the Olympic Games in Athens; on that occasion he won in five games to progress to the final where he was to lose to South Koreaís RYU Seung Min. Prior to that contest he had never beaten WANG Liqin in international competition and once again in Changchun he was to lose, he was beaten in seven games in a match of speed, power and athleticism.

WANG Hao, using fast footwork in an attempt to play his strong forehand topspin whenever possible, was most certainly in the fast lane in the opening game winning 11-6; he never gave WANG Liqin time to settle and in seemingly no time at all was walking back to the surrounds to take a drink and prepare for the second game.

The second game, however, was a different affair. WANG Liqin looked to play his forehand topspin earlier in the rallies, with his backhand he blocked WANG Haoís attacks and by the same margin as he had lost the first game he won the second.

Serving continually with his forehand, usually towards the middle of the table he attacked WANG Haoís backhand with controlled topspin strokes and whenever the occasion arose unleashed vicious forehands wide to both wings; however, it was close, WANG Liqin eventually winning13-11, a forehand flick wide to WANG Haoís backhand ending the game.

WANG Liqin continued to follow the tactic of playing safely with spin into WANG Haoís body and when the chance arose unleashed his powerful forehand. The point in the fourth game that took the score to 7-6 was modern day table tennis at its best, the topspin exchanges dynamic as both players showed their athletic prowess and deservedly gained the plaudits of the crowd which now numbered some five thousand. The game could have gone either way, eventually it went to WANG Hao, as a WANG Liqin backhand missed the end of the table, the match score was level, the rallies were becoming more and more exciting, the whole tempo of the contest was rising.

Undaunted, WANG Liqin continued with his tried and trusted plan in the fifth game; he gained an early lead, one that he never relinquished and he won with some ease. The reverse stung WANG Hao into action, he returned to the table won the first three points in electric style but then made unforced errors, duly lost the next four points at which stage he decided it was time for a re-think and called `Time Outí. He lost the next point but the using his backhand topspin to good effect won the next three before at 6-all WANG Liqin once again levelled.

The remaining points never reached the greatest heights, the rallies were short and a forehand topspin from WANG Hao into the net gave WANG Liqin his first match point; he failed to convert the opportunity; then at 11-10 he had a second chance, again WANG Hao recovered; the third chance came at 12-11 the stage at which he took `Time Outí but yet again WANG Hao recovered. The man from Changchun then won the next point and the delirious delight of the local crowd he had levelled and a seventh game beckoned.

In the seventh, WANG Liqin made a fine start, at the change of ends he led 5-1 and clearly he was more confident. He attacked more positively from the backhand, won the long rallies and went ahead 9-1 before WANG Hao replied; the latter won only one more point and WANG Liqin, the World number one, was the champion.

Once again, like ZHANG Yining, he had won a Volkswagen Open tournament on the ITTF Pro Tour; it was his third, like his female counterpart he had been successful in both Korea and Singapore earlier in the year.

WANG Liqin (CHN) bt WANG Hao (CHN) 6-11, 11-6, 13-11, 12-10, 11-6, 12-14, 11-2

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