Stars and starlets converge in Suzhou China at the start of the Qoros World Table Tennis championships 2015. Who will get the title? Can Liu Shiwen win it? Can Zhang Jike defend it? Or will we see some unexpected turn of events? One thing is clear: Butterfly will be on the front lines of this event, on and off the table. Our expert Richard Prause is on site and reports from news, surprises and provides daily reviews to keep you informed. More soon to come.
Ma Long is World Champion
Ma Long (CHN) became World Champion today after a 4:2 victory over compatriot and surprise finalist Fang Bo, who was able to beat Xu Xin and defending champion Zhang Jike before reaching the finals. Ma Long will now be pleased to finally win a title at one of the “big” tournaments to crown his numerous achievements on the World Tour.
World Champions in the Women’s doublse: Liu Shiwen/ Zhu Yuling
4:3 was the final score in the all-chinese Women’s doubles finals match.
Winners Zhu Yuling and Butterfly star Liu Shiwen managed to overcome Li Xiaoxia and a visibly handicapped, yet freshly crowned world champion Ding Ning in the seventh and deciding game. With a fine tactical setup and relentless attacks, Zhu/Liu were able to score the last point after trailing 1:2 and 2:3 in games.
The first Champions are crowned
Zhang Jike and Xu Xin have won the title in the Men’s doubles finals, winning over compatriots Zhou Yu and Fan Zhendong. Congrats to the champions! On their way, Xu and Zhang had to negotiate rough waters, as they faced heavy opposition from Timo Boll and Ma Long as well as Morizono and Oshima (JPN). This marks Zhang Jike’s first doubles title.
The doubles competition has changed in the last year. Until today, a combination of Left- and Righthanded players has been called the optimum, because both players could utilize their forehand side all the time, and were not stepping into their partner’s path. But today, the backhand flick has become the deciding shot in the doubles. So much, that players will now risk blocking their partner’s view in order to execute the backhand over the table with high speed and perfect placement. In turn, the opponent’s service has become half-long to long in order to compensate and eliminate this backhand receive. Interesting indeed!
The Winner in the Women’s competition is Ding Ning!
In a spectacular finals match, Ding Ning (CHN) was able to secure the title by narrowly beating compatriot and Butterfly star Liu Shiwen. Ding Ning looked like the sure victor, but Liu was able to sink her teeth into the match, pulling the finals into a deciding seventh game. Ding Ning also incurred an injury as she mis-stepped and fell. She had to be treated for 2 minutes before she could continue. But with clever placements she ensured not having to step around her deep forehand side – and won the match. After the game ended, she was rushed to the hospital but was already back at the table in her Women’s doubles semi finals match – unharmed.
Ma Long on his way to victory?
I was particularly keen on watching the Men’s singles semifinals with Ma Long facing Fan Zhendong. Ma long has been dominant on the World tour, but before was unable to play his very best table tennis at such a big event as the World Championships. Seeing him in the semi-finals here, one had to see a more determined, more driven Ma Long than ever. The way he eliminated the strengths of his opponent and dominated the match over large courses was nothing but awe-inspiring. He started off with an 8:0 lead in the first game, showing his improved backhand topspin, which had been somewhat of a weak spot in his game before. With his fast legs and the ever-dominant Ma Long forehand swing, he beat Fan Zhendong. After winning the match in the fifth game, he clapped his hands twice. Did he applaud himself? For sure, he can be proud of this determined performance.
Will he do that in the finals as well? Against whom?
Against Fang Bo!
A big surprise in the second Men’s singles semi-finals. Fang Bo (CHN)
eliminated World Champions Zhang Jike and will face Ma Long in the finals. Zhang Jike was calm and cool, maybe a little too much so. Fang Bo played passionately and – I have to say – very cleverly. He managed to force Zhang Jike into his forehand side, avoiding the dreaded backhand topspin of his opponent entirely. Fang Bo was fast and aggressive, showing an improved forehand topspin with reduced backswing. He more than deserved to win this – and I think he will not be outclassed in the finals..
+++ BREAKING NEWS Day 7 +++
Patrick Franziska (GER) has lost his game against Fang Bo (CHN) with 4:1 games, eliminating his chance for a medal in this competition. He should not be too hard on himself as he has been showing incredible table tennis, especially in points over the table. Franziska played cleverly and calm – dealing with the pressure in an admirable fashion. The 22 year-old can be proud of his performance in Suzhou. We are looking forward to seeing more of him in the future.
Timo Boll has also lost his chance for a World Championships title. His match against
powerhouse Fan Zhendong might have been the best match of this tournament for me – the final score: 4:2 for Fan, but especially game 1 and 2 were closely contested, both went to the chinese player. Timo played closed to the table, high risk but also highly agressive and posted more than just a few questions to Fan, who was surprised by Timo’s unique counter-topspins over and over. The high-speed, high-power table tennis from Fan Zhendong proved to be too much in the end, the 19 year-old emerged victorious. Can he win his first World Championships title here?
The first Title of this tournament goes to Xu/Xin (CHN) and Yang Haeun (KOR) in the mixed doubles. Congrats to the world Champions!
On the way to a Medal.. or the title
Ma Long has been moving forward uncontested. Often before he has not been able to keep his form until the later stages of a World Championships, we will see if this changes here in Suzhou. His colleague Xu Xin might have overdone his appearance in all three divisions of this tournament. While he had stumbled in his match against Butterfly player Alexander Shibaev (RUS) – he did finally fall against compatriot Fang Bo in the Round of 16, losing 11:13 in the seventh game.
And Fan Zhendong? He nearly overran Japan’s Koki Niwa, winning 4:1.
Patrick Franziska – for the first time in the quarter finals of a World Championships!
In order to win over Kou Lei (UKR), Patrick had to fight hard, equalizing a 0:2 game trail and neutralizing an 3:7 in the fifth. With the young German’s victory, he will tomorrow face Chinese player Fang Bo. A real highlight in my opinion!
Timo Boll indeed showed his best performance yet, beating Wong Chun-Ting of Honkong with 4:2. Especially during tight stages, Timo performed exceptionally well and serene, always being able to rely on his backhand topspin. Tomorrow, he will face Fan Zhendong, a real powerhouse in table tennis – this will surely be more than interesting.
In the women’s division, Butterfly defensive star Irene Ivancan (GER) managed well against China’s Ding Ning, but went on without winning a single game. She held the score tight in games 3 and 4, but was unable to write up a game to her name. Appearing in the round of 16 at a World Championships is however an accomplishment for her, she did play a fantastic tournament here in Suzhou.
Meanwhile, Butterfly star Liu Shiwen (CHN) beat the world Champion Li Xiaoxia with 4:2 and will appear in tomorrows finals match – her big chance of finally winning the title!
The round of 16 will hold interesting matches overall. With 4 Chinese, a Hongkong, a Japanese and two German players remaining, we will for sure be in for a world of incredible table tennis.The goal for everyone now will be winning a medal, and they will do everything possible to accomplish their goal.
I will keep you posted,
The Stars tumble
After all, the chinese stars are only human, and subject to mistakes and errors. This is why we start seeing the super stars tumble now and again.
On Thursday, Zhang Jike / Xu Xin had to stretch considerably in the doubles quarter finals against Japan’s Morizono/Oshima and needed to defend two match points for their opponents at 8:10 in the seventh game. Xu Xin himself had problems in his 3rd round match – trailing 0:2 behind Russia’s Alexander Shibaev before he could turn around the score.
Differently put: The Chinese stars were tumbling, yet they did not fall.
Germany’s Timo Boll also had to show his full skill in the match versus Joao Monteiro (POR). Boll trailed 1:2 in games and had to defend 2 game points in game number 4. He needed to go full distance in the end and only won by the narrowest of margins, having to display his whole skill set when he won 12:10 in the deciding game.
The biggest upset of Day 5 of the World Championships in Suzhou was certainly caused by Patrick Franziska (GER). He managed to not only win against but really overrun World ranked No. 8 from Portugal and Butterfly player Marcos Freitas with an incredible 4:1 final score. He will now face Kuo Lei (UKR) with good chances of reaching the quarter finals.
In the women’s singles competition, it all points towards yet another all-chinese tournament in the final stages. Kasumi Ishikawa (JPN) was eliminated from the tournament by Mu Zi (CHN), who -strictly speaking- is not even one of the biggest table tennis stars inside the chinese team. The game went 4:0 for Mu.
At least 4 European players have made it into the last 16. Among them, the german defender Irene Ivancan, and the defenders Li Jie (NED) and Tetyana Bilenko (UKR). Known fighter from Sweden, Matilda Ekholm did also make it to this stage – beating Margaryta Pesotska.
Men’s Doubles – Duel of the Titans
It was one of the really big matches: The second round of the men’s doubles. Timo Boll and Ma Long lost in a absolute high-class match – some say that was already the finals – to chinese pairing Xu Xin and Zhang Jike. It is quite unproductive to wonder about what would have happened if Timo and Ma Long had
scored at 9:9 in the sixth – managing to pull the match into a decisive seventh game.
I found myself wondering how Timo had taken the loss. In the match against Jakub Diyas (POL) he had to stretch considerably, but in the end was fine with a 4:2 victory. Overall, the established players were under heavy assault from lower ranked, yet highly motivated players in the singles competition. For example, Brazil’s Hugo Calderano did more than well in presenting himself against Butterfly star Jun Mizutani (JPN) – although he lost 2:4 in the end. Another spotlight is on England’s Liam Pitchford – not only did he manage to beat Kalinikos Kreanga (GRE), but he went to to beating Tiago Apolonia (POR) in the later stage as well.
I would also like to take this opportunity and talk briefly about the match of Nina Mittelham (GER) against her opponent and Butterfly player Elizabeta Samara (ROU). I was genuinely interested in how Nina would hold up to the pressure of a World Championships. She had beaten Eliza Samara before. She did well, build up her game, used her chances, but was finally not successful against Samara – not yet anyway..
The evening session provided us with a big surprise. Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER), the highest-ranked european player, lost to Korea’s Lee Sang Su in seven games. After a 0:2 “Dima” fought back into the game – but especially in backhand to backhand rallies, Lee hit some amazing shots and always had the right answer to the questions Ovtcharov posted.
Today was very interesting and an exciting day overall. Alot of things are in motion here in Suzhou – maybe because of the new plastic ball which posts an advantage to some and a disadvantage to other players. Everything stays interesting at this World Championships – I will keep you posted !
The first major Upset!
It is the first day of World Championships (at least for the singles) – and we already have the first big bang.
Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE), currently No. 9 in the world, lost to defensive player Adam Pattantyus (HUN) in seven games, Chuang managed to defend 6 match points, the seventh was too much for him.
The other top stars more or less marched onwards trough the brackets: Zhang Jike (CHN), Ma Long (CHN), Timo Boll (GER), Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER), as well as the women around Liu Shiwen, Li Xiaoxia and Ding Ning (all CHN) all moved along to the later stages. Another talent to look out for was 17-year old Tamolwan Khetkuen from Thailand – she put considerable problems to Jiang Huajun (HKG), leading 3:0 and 9:8. Even more amazing she could not manage to win the match in the end.
Meanwhile, Timo Boll’s dreams of becoming world Champion in the doubles alongside his chinese friend Ma Long are over. Both were leading 2:0 in games in a fantastic match over Xu Xin / Zhang Jike, but the final score read 2:4 in the end, declaring Xu/Zhang the absolute favorites for the trophy as of now.
Timo Boll respected the performance of the chinese duo:
“Of course I am disappointed right after the match, but we are certainly not to blame ourselves – we must not forget that we faced two world champions here.” And he looks to the future with optimism: “As a positive result, I now know that I am in good shape, although I am sad not to be able to compete for the doubles trophy anymore. We know before that match that this was not going to be easy at all. Now we both can fully focus on the Singles competition and will not lose power or focus in the doubles.”
Slowly, the competition moves to the final stages – round 2 and 3 traditionally pose high hurdles for the established stars.
Starting Qualifications and Mixed Doubles
The main theme for the top players today is fitness training and some light practice, just like Korean defender JOO Sae Hyuk did today. For other players, today was the first “real” day of competition at this World Championships. And I have to say, I really like seeing the mixed doubles – they are probably on their way of becoming an olympic discipline, just like in Badminton. And there are lots of spectacular rallies! It’s interesting to see the Men hitting empty spaces over and over – misjudging the topspin from the women .. let’s see how Steffen MENGEL and Petrissa SOLJA will perform here!
Until players reach the intermediate round (after qualification), we will have seen who over- or underperforms. The intermediate round itself will see high class table tennis, I have liked Nima Alamiyan (the younger brother of Noshad) as well as the american Kid Khanak JHA. For the latter, it was not quite enough to reach the main draw, but I am sure we will be seeing him just there in future tournaments. Tomorrow the World Championships goes full throttle when the seeded players will make their first appearance.
Timo Boll / Ma Long .. it’s everywhere!
Timo playing with Ma Long, it is the number one topic wherever you overhear conversation in Suzhou. Wherever they appear, there’s always cameras, microphones, reporters. Also interesting to see just how many different sparring partners the chinese team has brought to Suzhou. Every playing system is covered, allowing the Chinese players to prepare for every opponent imaginable. One particular player has to negotiate the qualification stages first. I am sure Mu Zi will reach the main stage without problems.
Butterfly Welcome Party and some speculation – with Richie
What a wonderful way to start the Games in Suzhou!
The Butterfly Welcome Party ist starting to be tradition on World Championships, starring illustrious guests from all over the world, such as ITTF President Thomas Weikert, ETTU President Ronald Kramer and lots of table tennis stars. The Chinese National team came to say “Ni hao”, as well as Timo Boll, Marcos Freitas, Jun Mizutani and many others. All came to enjoy an interesting evening with excellent food and took the opportunity to shake hands with other members of the Butterfly family on the last quiet evening before the tournament starts.
Certainly the draw deserves some words. The international doubles team of MA Long and Timo BOLL, favourited by some experts will meet the equally strong pairing of XU Xin and ZHANG Jike as early as round 2. It might not be far-fetched to see the coming world champions emerge victorious from this very game. In the mens’ singles, we risk speculating about the quarter finals, all under the assumption that the favorite player prevails (which is not given since there are LOTS of highy-motivated and capable opponents looking for just such an upset), MA Long, maybe on his way to a first big title, would face Dimitrij OVTCHAROV. A tough draw for the German indeed, although he managed to lead 2:0 against Ma at the German Open 2015 – the chinese player in the end had the upper hand.
The lower bracket could hold the quarter finals with FAN Zhendong vs. Timo BOLL, another fantastic duel of two great players. We shall see if FAN is mature enough to resist the pressure of playing in his home-country and if he can deal with the high expectations everyone has for him. The third bracket may contain the quarter finals with Jun MIZUTANI and ZHANG Jike. Can the World Champion defend his title here? And the final bracket may present us with the quarter finals match: XU Xin vs. Marcos FREITAS. Thinking back to Paris 2013, Freitas did not stand a chance agains Xu – will this change here?
Let me risk another long shot and look at the FINALS of the women’s competition: LI Xiaoxia, defending champion might face Butterfly player LIU Shiwen – a rematch of WTTC 2013? But until then, a lot of matches will have to be played and it would not be a World Championships if there were no major upsets …
Here we go!
The Journey ..
..not the arrival matters. Richie Prause is now on his way to China. Watch his first impressions on the plane and on site in Suzhou. View the gallery with a click on it.
That’s how you say “Hello” from Suzhou China. Welcome, table tennis fans! It is time once again for the biggest table tennis event.
A World Championships in China is always a highlight. Fighting for medals in the singles’ and doubles’ competitions is promising to be an exciting week for fans of the fastest sport on earth. It is also going to be an important waypoint on the road to Rio 2016 – we will see who is stepping up to become the next olympic champion next year.
Six players from China are fighting for a medal at the world Championships, whereas only 2 at the olympics. That makes competition that much tougher for contenders from outside of China.
So what do we look for in Suzhou? Who grow to be the biggest obstacle for the chinese players?
The first thoughts of course are Dimitrij OVTCHAROV and Timo BOLL. Both have been able to defeat the top chinese players in the past. Yet we should not forget Marcos FREITAS, the number 8 in the world, and, of course the legend Vladimir SAMSONOV, who is and has always been a force to be reckoned with.
And in the Womens’ competition?
It seems the chinese ladies are even more ahead of their competition compared to the mens’. Or are they?
Only a few weeks ago, Singaporean player FENG Tianwei, number 4 in the world, was able to win the Asia Cup, beating none other than the runner-up world champion LIU Shiwen (CHN). The victory reminded us of the World Championships 2010, where Singapore took victory over China in the finals. Can Feng Tianwei repeat the major upset in Suzhou as well?
China has always been a solid ground for success of the home-team. 1995 (Tianjin) and 2005 (Shanghai), all medals went to the chinese team.
I am also very curious about the doubles’ competitions. Seeded 18 in the mens’ doubles will be MA Long/Timo BOLL. This international pairing of two friends may just have the power to propel Timo Boll onto the top stage of the podium at a World championships. We shall see..
I will do my best to report from the success of Butterfly players. I am on site, at the official hotel, the training hall and the commentators’ box, aiming to provide you with first-hand news, newslets and the occasional interview.
Stay tuned and get excited for table tennis!
World Championships start on the 26th, but it has already begun for our colleagues in China – in the Butterfly sales stand.
Designed in the typical Butterfly colours – dressed with the faces of great table tennis.
Timo Boll, Jun Mizutani and Zhang Jike, three of the most popular Butterflies this year are awaiting the “go” for the most important table tennis event of the year. If you are lucky enough to see them perform live, go have a look at the Butterfly stand. We are happy to be able to support our players on site and wish for the most perfect preparation to our stars.
The ITTF promotes event with this fantastic trailer:
Suzhou: Go Go Go! The Spot.
To get into the mood for table tennis of the highest order, here is the brand new TV spot produced by Butterfly, which will be featured on the itTV program. Enjoy!