The 2014 ITTF Men’s World Cup showed the fans everything they could hope for in a world-class tournament: Seeing the stars first-hand, watching fantastic table tennis matches on a high level and a little scandal at the end. But first things first.
Where the 20 best players in the world met to what some call a “small World Championships” – many Butterfly players made it to the round of 16.
Kenta Matsudaira (JPN), Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE), Panagiotis Gionis (GRE), Jun Mizutani (JPN), Adrien Mattenet (FRA), Timo Boll (GER), Zhang Jike (CHN) and Adrian Crisan (ROU).
Especially Timo Boll and Jun Mizutani demonstrated their top form. Mizutani was beat greek defender Panagiotis Gionis with 4-0, before exchanging blows with Taiwan’s Chuang Chih-Yuan in an incredibly spectacular match – Mizutani prevailed again, 4-1 this time. In the following semi-finals, he could not have drawn a tougher opponent: Ma Long from China, Number 3 in the world. It was a difficult match for Mizutani, but the Japanese star posted a rough hurdle for his opponent as well. In the end, the result was 4-1 for the Chinese Player, even if the match was harder fought than the score suggests.
In the lower bracket, Timo Boll gave his german fans a great show and posted an exclamation mark to his current form. After a more or less uncontested 4-2 over the French Adrien Mattenet, a quarter finals against compatriot and good friend Dimitrij Ovtcharov was drawn. The last four meetings between the two were won by Ovtcharov, but not this time. Boll’s characteristic strength over the table allowed him to put pressure on Ovtcharov, even in passive situations. Timo won, applauded by a frenetic crowd in Düsseldorf – with 4-0.
The semi-finals match against world champion Zhang Jike from China was a fight at the highest level possible. To the delight of the German Fans, Timo Boll held his own against fellow butterfly star and Olympic Champion, won the second game, but lost the third with 14:16 – which proved pivotal for the match. With lots of long rallies and fine tactics, Timo pulled the match to a deciding 7th game, where he mis-started and had to acknowledge the strength of Zhan Jike, who moved on to the finals.
With 3 Butterfly players out of 4 players standing, the finals set out to be even more spectacular. In the 3rd place match, Timo Boll met Jun Mizutani and it was as grand a match as always between the two. Timo Boll managed to build on his 14:1 lead over his opponent and earned his place on the podium with a bronze medal at the world cup.
The finals were the last highlight – two of the best players in the world fighting for the title. Both went on the offensive and with tactical finesse, scoring game by game in turns. The match was finally
decided in the extension of the 7th game – for Zhang Jike. It was his second title after the World Cup 2011, and he celebrated accordingly. In the heat of the moment, Zhang Jike kicked in two surrounds, which cost him his price money, it was donated to a worthy cause. Zhang Jike had been under considerable pressure in China in the previous months and later apologised for his behaviour.
We say: Congratulations to our Butterfly Stars Zhang Jike and Timo Boll on a great tournament!
The World Cup Season continues. In a few days, the ISS Dome in Düsseldorf opens its gates to the Men’s World Cup 2014 – where 20 of the best players in the World to fight for the title. Among them are our Butterfly Stars – let’s introduce:
National Association: Germany
Date of Birth: 08/03/1981
Current World Ranking: No.9
Highest World Ranking: No.1 January – September 2003 / January – March 2011
Winner of the Men’s Singles title at the European Championships on a record six occasions; Timo Boll graduated from being a promising junior player to a World class senior player in rapid time.
Very much the role model, Timo Boll excels with the first three attacks in a rally; notably imparting more spin on the ball than most of his contemporaries. It is the self-belief in that style of play that has seen him achieve such great success.
He made his debut in the Men’s World Cup in Jinan, China in 2002 and at his first attempt won the title; he regained the title in 2005 in Liege notably beating the Chinese trio of Wang Liqin, Ma Lin and Wang Hao in the second stage of proceedings. In Düsseldorf he will be making his 13th consecutive appearance in the tournament.
National Association: China
Date of Birth: 16/02/1988
Current World Ranking: No.4
Highest World Ranking: No.1 June – December 2012
Winner of the Boys’ Singles title at the ITTF Cadet Challenge, the potential shown in 2002 was realised when he won the Men’s Singles title at the World Championships in 2011, retained the title in 2013 and sandwiched in between struck gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Notably powerful from the backhand, Zhang Jike thrives in the spotlight; he is the man for the big occasion, the higher the challenge the more he is motivated.
In Düsseldorf he will be making only his third appearance in the Men’s World Cup; on both previous occasions he reached the final where he confronted colleague Wang Hao. In 2011 in Magdeburg, he had to settle for runners up spot, one year later in 2012 in Paris he turned the tables.
National Association: Japan
Date of Birth: 09/06/1989
Current World Ranking: No.7
Highest World Ranking: No.5 June – August 2012
Crowned Men’s Singles champion at the ITTF World Grand Finals in 2010, Jun Mizutani immediately caught the eye some seven years earlier when he appeared in the first ever World Junior Championships staged in 2003 in Santiago.
It was his outstanding control over the table tennis ball that caught the eye which added to the fact his preference is to play one step away from the table makes him a delight to watch.
In Düsseldorf, he is making his fourth appearance in the competition; his previous best being an agonising fourth place in 2011 in Magdeburg and the following year in Paris.
National Association: Chinese Taipei
Date of Birth: 02/04/1981
Current World Ranking: No.8
Highest World Ranking: No.3 December 2003
The backbone of the Chinese Taipei National Team; Chuang Chih-Yuan holds a special place in the annals of the ITTF World Tour. In 2002 he won the Men’s Singles title at the Grand Finals before ever winning on the Tour itself.
Speed is a key factor in his play, he relishes the rallies and in recent times there has been one area in particular of his play that has improved significantly. He did experience considerable problems against defenders; recent results suggest that hurdle has been overcome.
He has played in every Men’s World Cup since his debut in Jinan, China in 2002; his best performance being a quarter-final place in 2006, 2010 and on his two most recent excursions, 2012 in Liverpool, last year in Liège.
National Association: Greece
Date of Birth: 7/01/1980
Current World Ranking: No.22
Highest World Ranking: No.21 September 2014
A silver medal for Greece in the Men’s Team event at the 2013 European Championships was a landmark for the country, very much the pivotal player was Panagiotis Gionis.
Arguably defenders mature rather later than attacking players; Panagiotis Gionis now past the threshold age of 30 years is maturing like a good wine, performances in recent times have been of a rare vintage.
Panagiotis Gionis made his debut in the World Championships in Manchester in 1997 and had been a member of the national team ever since that date; 2014 is his debut in the Men’s World Cup.
National Association: Japan
Date of Birth: 11/04/1991
Current World Ranking: No.27
Highest World Ranking: No.15 December 2013
Winner of the Boys’ Singles title at the World Junior Championships in Cairo in 2006, Kenta Matsudaira is now an established member of the Japanese National Men’s Team
The innovative service action is his trademark but there is more to Kenta Matsudaira; compared with many of his peers, he plays in a very central position, attacking with equal equanimity from both backhand and forehand.
In Düsseldorf he is making his second appearance in the Men’s World Cup, he played in Moscow in 2009.
National Association: Russia
Date of Birth: 09/09/1990
Current World Ranking: No.44
Highest World Ranking: No.29 July 2012 and December 2012
Twice the runner up in ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles events, the silver medallist in Poland in 2011 and more recently on home soil in Russia in 2013, Alexander Shibaev is rapidly asserting his present at senior level.
A right handed attacking player, the all-round top spin play of Alexander Shibaen has made him a force with which to be reckoned; increasingly he is becoming of a mainstay of Russian National Men’s Team.
He played in the Men’s Team World Cup in Magdeburg in 2011; Düsseldorf 2014 is hid Men’s World Cup debut.
National Association: France
Date of Birth: 15/10/1987
Current World Ranking: No.59
Highest World Ranking: No.19 December 2011-January 2012
A well-established member of the French National Men’s Team, Adrien Mattenet is a player who entertains wherever he plays. Nowhere, did he entertain more than at the Men’s World Cup in Paris in 2011 when he beat both Vladimir Samosonov and Chuang Chih-Yuan to qualify for the second stage of proceedings where Zhang Jike ended progress
One of the tallest players on the international scene, Adrien Mattenet delights when playing away from the table; able to reach a return which others might find impossible top spin play is the hallmark of his style.
In Düsseldorf, he is playing in his third Men’s World Cup; in addition to Paris in 2011, he played the following year in Liverpool.
National Association: Brazil
Date of Birth: 02/08/1985
Current World Ranking: No.77
Highest World Ranking: No.45 April 2013
The winner against the odds of the Men’s Singles title on the ITTF World Tour at the Spanish Open in 2013 and then at the World Team Classic in Guangzhou later in the year, a pivotal member of the Brazilian outfit that reached the last eight, Cazuo Matsumoto is very much the last of the generation.
Left handed, pen-hold grip, he uses one side of the racket only; it is a style now resigned to history, yet Casuo Matsumoto makes it work to great effect. He excels in the art of service and first attack.
In Düsseldorf, it is his second appearance in the Men’s World Cup; on his one previous venture in Moscow in 2009, he won the Intercontinental Cup.
National Association: United States of America
Date of Birth: 19/06/2000
Current Under 15 Boys’ World Ranking: No.9
Highest Under 15 Boys’ World Ranking: No.5 May 2014
The sensational winner earlier this year in June when he won the Men’s Singles title at the ITTF-North America Cup in Burnaby, Kanak Jha is very much at the vanguard of an exciting generation of players currently emerging from the United States.
Fearless, athletic, a right handed top spin player, he oozes enthusiasm and delights in confronting more established senior player. He responds to the big stage, he enjoys the theatre of competition.
In Düsseldorf, he is making his Men’s World Cup debut
Adrian Crisan, Romania
Date of Birth: 07/05/1980
Current World Ranking: No. 28
Adrian Crisan has been on the top of european table tennis for years. The quarter finalist of the olympic games 2012 in London has always excited with his feeling for the ball and exceptional overview during a rally. In Düsseldorf, Crisan will make his second World Cup appearance.
Date of Birth: 15/10/1987
Current World Ranking: No. 58
Adrien Mattenet is yet another player excelling at spectacular rallies, attending at this year’s world Cup. The 27 year old French knows how to captivate a crowd, especially with his backhand topspins. The two-time quarter finalist of the European Championships 2010 and 2011 will make his second appearance at a Men’s World Cup in Düsseldorf.