My plane lands on 18:40h in Frankfurt, Germany. The first time it touches ground in 12 hours. It’s 30min early, but 12 hours is enough time for me to think about this World Championships, we all have just seen
What changed – what is new in professional table tennis?
In the women’s and Men’s competition, we have seen 4 chinese players in the semi-finals.. Li Xiaoxia, Liu Shiwen, Ding Ning. The semi finals was an exclusive club of big names, but one stuck out: Mu Zi, a player with short pips on the backhand, very fast and agile, using the pips to move the opponent back and forth from the table, much like the 14 year-old Mima Ito (JPN), changing the pace and the rhythm all the time.
Maybe we are witness to a trend in women’s table tennis here, providing an alternative to the all-topspin play exhibited in the finals by Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen. Also nice to see: The defensive play lives on! Short Pips (Wu Yang) or long Pips (Tatyana Bilenko), we will still be seeing defensive players in the future!
What about the Men?
Ma Long was finally crowned as the World Champion, inheriting the title from Zhang Jike. In the all-chinese semi finals, we could see two distinct systems of play. On the one hand there are players like Zhang Jike and Fan Zhendong, who are certainly equal on both wings, but favor the backhand topspin. On the other hand Fang Bo and Ma Long are equally set up, but with a heavier focus on the forehand, trying to maximize the power on the forehand whenever possible. 2015 certainly was Ma Long’s turn to win, but I can see Fan Zhendong or Zhang Jike striking back in the future.
We have seen the backhand flick (the “chiquita“) gain even more importance – and to compensate we start seeing more long service these days.
Germany with their strong team of Timo Boll, Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Patrick Franziska, who has been playing brilliantly in Suzhou as well as Japan with Jun Mizutani, Koki Niwa and Kenta Matsudaira keep challenging the chinese for a title. Meanwhile we saw Korean players such as Lee Sang Su, who still has a lot of potential – much like Hugo Calderano (BRA), or the young portuguese and Hongkong-Chinese players. There is certainly an interesting future ahead in table tennis.
For players it remains crucial to learn from losses and keep improving. Simply trying to play faster all the time does not seem to be the motto for the future, the focus has to be on placement and pace changes, in my opinion.
The new plastic ball successfully completed its first world championships. With a little less spin and speed it allows lower ranked players to put considerable pressure on the favorites, although we did not see a real sensation in Suzhou 2015. Switching to the new balls has put new demands on the players’ physique. Athletics have always been important, but it has become a prerequisite for success, as player have to put in more physical effort in order to score…
Table tennis remains different.