Sunday 10 November 2013

Breakdown Blog: World Cup Final 2013

This Breakdown Blog centres on the World Cup Final between Xu Xin and Vladimir Samsonov, a rematch of the bronze medal match in 2012 but this time with the Chinese player coming out on top and taking the World Cup Title. Samsonov had shown incredible consistency to make it to the final, overcoming Timo Boll by 4 games to 0, while Xu Xin played his usual wide angle shots to decimate the field.

Xu Xin is obviously aware of Samsonov's ability to pick up half long balls on his forehand, so the majority of his service returns are focused on Vladi's backhand side. This time Xu focuses a lot more on 3rd ball openers with more spin, he definitely focuses more on the 5th ball as the ball to play a winner on. In some examples he simply plays at 80% pace and looks for an opening in Samsonov's defence.

Towards the end of the 2nd set we see Samsonov focusing more on the pivot zone for Xu Xin, he knows he can push the ball deeper there with more confidence and even opens with a few long fast serves into the backhand. Samsonov capitalises on variation in these few points, playing a fast serve and then following up with a slow block. During the match Samsonov's long fast serve actually forces a few errors from Xu Xin simply on service return.

Samsonov really presses the ball into the backhand corner on a number of occasions in the rally, trying to catch Xu Xin off balance or reduce his stable base and the power in his shots which opens up the chance to hit down the line. As usual however Xu Xin shows his ability to adjust his body position in order to play shots out of position. Interestingly there are not many instances of rallies back from the table, both players seem to recognise the capability of each other further back from the table and there is a conscious effort to keep the game close to the table. Unfortunately for Samsonov this results in a few errors as he tries to take the ball too early on a number of occasions, the pressure is definitely on him to beat the odds in this match.

Knowing the amount of control Samsonov can achieve on his backhand side, Xu's bigger openings out of his pivot zone are crosscourt as wide as he can get to the forehand. If he were to play the fast ball down the line to the backhand then Samsonov has the angle on him across the whole table.

Xu Xin shows his dominance in the match overall, Samsonov tends to play longer on service receive, where Xu plays tight. The openings created for Xu are more frequent and he takes full advantage of them, not playing too hard or fast until the right opportunity arises. Xu attacks in the match much more than Samsonov, Vladi almost appears on the defensive in a large proportion of cases and Xu really takes advantage of that, he has the opportunity to continue hitting balls and looking for gaps in that defence and on more than half of the occasions he finds one. So Xu Xin, the victor 4-1.

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