A few days have passed since the world team table tennis championships in Tokyo’s Yoyogi national gymnasium. Time for us to look back at the event and think about, what stuck with us. Who better to do this than our table tennis expert Richard Prause. Richie?

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In Tokyo, I do think we have seen some outstanding table tennis and we could really see the high status table tennis enjoys, especially when Japanese teams are playing, both Men’s and Women’s teams. The event was almost sold out on the women’s games, because there is just a little more focus on the Japanese Women’s national team.

I especially liked the Table tennis fair on the premises of the Yoyogi National Gymnasium. There were so many different choices for food, outdoor sports and table tennis products, and it was well received by the spectators and at times even felt crowded. This was in particular different to – let’s say Germany – where most of the off-table entertainment and events take place inside the venue. I very much liked this concept of an “open air fair”.

The Japanese teams enjoyed the crowd pushing them forward – and they rewarded the spectators by showing good performances throughout the tournament. Runner-up in the women’s division, 3rd place in the Men’s, demonstrating the high level of current Japanese table tennis. These teams are all young and still improving with their best years surely still ahead.

The next interesting thing was the presence of the TV reporters and cameras, which were literally found everywhere in the Yoyogi Gymnasium, showcasing table tennis’ high value in Asia. It would be fantastic if we were to see more of that in the European Circuit as well.

Let’s talk shortly about the size of the event. It was once more filled with superlatives, making the case for table tennis as a worldwide, a global sport. But on the other hand, such a massive event is also a strain on the ITTF and the organizing federation. Therefore, I believe it is the correct decision by the ITTF to limit the event to 96 teams in total for the coming World Team table tennis championships.

 

Let’s turn our eyes onto the Men’s competition itself and review the performances of individual teams and their development in recent months.

Let’s turn our eyes onto the Men’s competition itself and review the performances of individual teams and their development in recent months.

China, that much is clear, is still reigning champion of table tennis and for now playing in its very own league. Germany can – on a good day – at least challenge that dominance. By adding Patrick Franziska – a promising young player – to the line-up, the German team is now more complete than ever with their two experienced and established players Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

The champions’ team of China is in a state of renewal. Wang Hao, its main and established player for years, was selected to the Tokyo team mainly for his experience in guiding and advising his team mates. Those younger players around Fan Zhendong, Ma Long or Xu Xin were forced to accept more responsibilities themselves. Interestingly enough, the most reliable player in this team when it comes to the big stage – Zhang Jike – was far from his best at the team world championships. In the finals, he was stopped in his tracks by Dimitrij Ovtcharov, but perhaps the world and Olympic Champion is a bit overplayed at the moment? In any way, this tournament and especially the finals match was really Ma Longs time to shine. He has been leading the Chinese team to yet another great success, with himself losing not a single game in the tournament.

The team of Korea Republic losing to Chinese Taipei was a bit of a surprise for me. Overall I would say Korea has been struggling to keep up with the best teams in the world. The players behind the “big three” have had some good results, but overall Cho Eonrae and Kim Min Seok have not been near the level of performance of the legends: Joo Sea Hyuk (who played well in Tokyo), Ryu Seung Min and Oh Sang Eun, the latter two not being elected to the team.

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The team of Chinese Taipei is interesting to watch, with a very well-distributed age structure mixing experienced players such as Chuang Chih-Yuan and younger talents, such as Chen Chien-An.

Behind those teams there are surely Portugal and Austria, who are waiting in the blocks.

Catching my special attention was the team of Brazil where especially Hugo Calderano and Gustavo Tsuboi drew more than just a few looks in Tokyo.

The most important thing is: There is a lot going on behind the big teams from China, Germany or Japan, and a lot of positive developments are good for the sport of table tennis!

In the women’s division, there are similar developments. Here, the Chinese reign supremely as well, followed by Japan. Singapore and Korea have experienced a new generation taking over, significantly lowering their teams’ average age. Those younger players have drawn some attention in Tokyo, making for interesting prospects in the future. For the European Teams, players such as Sarah DeNutte or Britt Eerland or Andrea Todorovic are certainly interesting talents for the future. Things are happening!

The second division

We have seen fantastic table tennis in the second division as well. In the Men’s, the up-comers Italy and England have finally made into the championship division, a sensational success. In the Women’s, there will be some new challenges for Sweden and Brazil, who have managed to accomplish the same. Especially Brazil, a country that has finally found its place on the global map of table tennis, will surely be interesting to watch in the future!

The state of table tennis

If we look at table tennis from a physical point of view, we can see the sport becoming more and more athletic, a development which may continue in times of the new plastic ball. On the top performance level, all players of today a well-trained physically. A physical coach is going to be an essential part for the development of the players, because being physically fit enables a player to move to the ball early using the best position on all shots as fast as possible. This has become as important as table tennis skills themselves.

In this regards, Men’s table tennis is literally “one step ahead” of the women’s division, although we can see big developments happening here as well. Nearly all game concepts are built on the “backhand banana flick” and on moving around the ball afterwards.

At the same time, being able to play forehand and backhand equally well becomes more and more important as well. Players who are strong on one side (such as the legends Wang Liqin, Ryu Seung Min or Ma Lin) have become obsolete to players strong on both wings, with Xu Xin being the big exception to the rule. Adding a strong backhand flick and shot forehand push completes the picture of a complete table tennis player in my eyes.

Players must not forget to use half-long or even long serves once in a while to balance out the backhand flick of the opponent. In essence, we are still going to see movement around the ball to win the point without neglecting the backhand service-receive.

A lot of work is still before us in our sport but it is well-worth the effort to further development of the table tennis sport!

Yours,
Richie

About The Author

Seb

Sebastian launched his table tennis “career” at age 11 and made it to the 5. German league. Yet he is also active in professional table tennis: As TV Commentator for the ITTF, he has traveled to many exciting tournaments all over the world, commenting live on the top games. He became part of Team-Butterfly in 2014, working in Sales and Marketing as translator and copy-editor.

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