Saturday, 13 October 2012

NZ Men's Title Successfully Defended

At the ending moments of a long few days of exhausting matches, the open men's singles drew to a close and a champion was decided. The 2 days of qualifying and main draw matches were filled with the highest standard of table tennis, put on show for players and spectators alike.

A rematch of the 2011 Final
The top group saw Jonathan Wang qualifying over Mark Page after beating him 3-1 and a withdrawal from Li Lewei saw Roger Rao qualify first in his group and Craig Dye go through 2nd. Kevin Wu came out top of his group with Xiaojian Sha dropping into 2nd and Roger Wang was the surprise 2nd qualifier in his group behind Oliver Scarlett.

Josh Alexandre played exceptionally to win 4-0 over last year's bronze medallist Zhiyang Cheng in the back-round, while Matthew Ball held on in the tight spots to win 6 sets over Ben Collins. 

The round of 16 saw Teng Teng Liu take out Xiaojian Sha in straight sets while Matthew Ball exercised extreme control and patience to defeat the all out attacking force of Yi-Sien Lin. Powerful shots on both wings proved not to stack up against Ball's close to table gamestyle. 4-1 in Matt Ball's favour and a fantastic result for him. Oliver Scarlett claimed a 4-1 win over Craig Dye, his big windmill forehand proving to outplay Craig Dye's chopping even in the most extreme circumstances.

Malcolm Darroch, awarded Veteran of the Year award for 2012, held a 2-0 lead on 3rd seed Chang Bo but the rapid attacking Bo came back in fashion to close the match out 4-2 in his favour. Yuansen Yao also advanced 4-0 over Roger Rao, though each set shared a very tight scoreline. Kevin Wu dispatched Roger Wang in straight sets and Phillip Xiao ended his match in 5 sets against Jonathan Wang. John Cordue also moved into the next round in 6 sets over Josh Alexandre, a match packed with loop to loop rallies and angle plays.

Into the quarters and Phillip Xiao made short work of Kevin Wu, platforming off his Under 21 gold medal yesterday to take a 4-0 win over Wu. John Cordue fell victim to Yuansen Yao 4-1, Chang Bo defeated Oliver Scarlett by the same margin, despite Ollie having multiple chances in each set. Teng Teng Liu wasted no time in bringing an end to his match with Matthew Ball in straight sets. 

Men's singles podium
Image courtesy of Murray Finch
The semifinals brought the most entertaining matches of the night. Yuansen Yao faced a rematch of his under 21 final from the previous day. Having been too passive in that match against Phillip Xiao he came out attacking this time and took a 2-1 lead. Phillip however was looking to return to the final to have another crack at winning the national title and performed superbly to win 4-2, the last set a solid 11-3. Tony Liu had more serious problems on his hands with his match extending extreme pressure. The incredibly paced flat driving technique and top service from Chang Bo with his pengrip short pimple rubber style left Tony needing to work very hard to secure each set. Thankfully he managed to do so to keep his hopes of defending his NZ National title alive and was able to narrowly win out the last 2 sets to win 4-2.

The final proved to be quite a one sided contest, despite the best efforts of Phillip Xiao he could not compete point for point with the blindingly fast attacking of Teng Teng Liu. Determined as ever to make it 2 in a row, Tony played to his usual exceptional standard and set balls up for his crazy 3rd ball attacks. Phillip managed to block some back with pace to win some outstanding points, but Tony was eventually the victor in straight sets and was not afraid to show his emotion at having won the event. Congratulations Tony :)

The Mens doubles saw Johan Axelqvist and Phillip Xiao pair up to claim the win 3-0 over Yuansen Yao and Teng Teng Liu. Ryan Zhu and Nathan Lowe also came out of retirement to claim a bronze medal in the event, a pleasant surprise for old friends in the sport.

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