Sunday 26 October 2014

ITTF Fine on Zhang Jike No Less Than Absurd

The ITTF posted after Zhang Jike's victory at the ITTF World Cup stating that the newly crowned champion will not be receiving ANY of the prize money after his less than acceptable victory celebration. After defeating his teammate Ma Long in an incredibly tense 7 set duel, Jike ran to the barriers on each end of the table and kicked them, damaging a few of the barriers.

Zhang Jike fined 45,000 euros for breaking barriers
The ITTF decision is that as punishment Zhang Jike will not receive a cent of his well earned prize money, the sum of 45,000 euros. Even the infamous John MacEnroe who was famous for his outbursts in Tennis was never fined an amount like that and he verbally assaulted umpires and referees and smashed his tennis rackets all the time.

While it is clear that Zhang Jike should be reprimanded somewhat for his actions, this is way beyond the call of duty from ITTF. Considering the pathetic amount of prize money in international table tennis already, 45,000 euros is proportionally an enormous fine (despite how much Zhang Jike may earn himself). So as always we face more amazing (insert sarcasm here) decisions by the international body who are of course deluded enough to believe they are doing the right thing for the sport.

I think a fine of 5,000 euros would have been acceptable. Zhang Jike pulls crowds and supporters and is good for marketing table tennis, this is a grossly overrated punishment. You could say it's the principle but I think it's a little heavy handed. For sure we don't want this kind of action to be displayed in front of young aspiring players or to influence them in their futures and I whole heartedly agree that a punishment is necessary. However...overkill.

Also ask yourself his, if ITTF deem his actions as a bad example and it's worthy of a 45k fine, why have they uploaded the video to their YouTube channel? Hoping for vitality and more ad revenue? If you are willing to fine him all his prize money then don't act to condone his actions by publicizing them further.

Zhang Jike expressed his apologies for the outburst after the match. Please let me know your thoughts on this ridiculous punishment!

Saturday 18 October 2014

Top 5 Veteran Table Tennis Ladies You Don't Want to Mess With!

As we all know table tennis is a sport for all backgrounds and conquers all barriers of race, physical ability and age. This spurred on a fun article on the top 5 over 40 women you really don't want to pick a fight with out on the table tennis table. Prepare to be inspired by these still amazing veterans who are still competing at top international level and are as youthful as ever! Please note these are not in any particular order :D

1. Li Jiao - Netherlands

Li Jiao at the WTTC
Li Jiao is a youthful 41 years of age and has been knocking on the door of the top 10 women in the world for many years in the sport. Currently ranked 20th in the world on the October 2014 ITTF World Ranking List, she is still as cunning as ever out on the table. A traditional style penholder from China, Li has represented the Netherlands for many years, and proudly so. She was the winner of the European Top 12 on 4 occasions (2007,08,10,11), European Champion in 2007 and a quarterfinalist at the 2005 World Table Tennis Championships in Shanghai.

In this year's world championships she scored 2 points in the Netherlands 3-2 loss to Japan in the quarterfinals, with 5 set wins over Kasumi Ishikawa and Sayaka Hirano. Exhibiting an impressive arsenal of serves, she also commands excellent control on her backhand, impeccable placement and a powerful forehand attack.

2. Ni Xia Lian - Luxembourg

51 year old Ni Xia Lian 
Over the hill at 51 years old, Ni Xia Lian is still a hotshot on the table tennis table. A former Chinese professional player, Ni was a gold medallist in the 1983 WTTC China team, a bronze medallist in the doubles and gold medallist with Guo Yuehua in the mixed doubles. She also won a doubles silver medal 2 years later at the 85 World Champs. In Europe, she was a 3 time European Championships finalist, winning on two occasions in 98 and 02.

Her penhold style and twiddling combination of short and long pimpled rubbers caused havoc for many of her opponents with her being able to control and vary the pace and spin to an incredibly frustrating level. She reached a peak World Ranking of 8th in 2002 and still remains 63rd this month (Oct 2014), well within the top 100 international players in the world.

3. Jian Fang Lay - Australia

Australia's Jian Fang Lay
Jian Fang Lay is as competitive as ever at 41 years of age. The winner of this year's Oceania World Cup Qualification and 12 other historic Oceania Championship medals, she is one of Australia's top female players. Lay moved to Australia from China and has been in the Australian National team for the last 20 years. She was a competitive junior player in China and peaked at a World Ranking of 45th in 1996. She remains 120th in the World today and shows no sign of slowing down.

With a reputation for lightning fast penhold twiddling between her inverted attacking rubber and long pimple rubber, Lay is able to alter the ball spin and speed to extremes, combining the slow and awkward long pimple returns with spinny or high paced topspin strokes with her normal rubber. This has caused her to continue to compete at the highest international level.

4. Li Chunli - New Zealand

Li Chunli - New Zealand
At 52 years old and after a period in retirement, Li Chunli is back out on the table chasing the Olympic Dream. A member of the Chinese National Team for 3 years from 1981, Chunli moved to New Zealand and quickly established herself as number 1 with 9 National Singles titles in a row from 1987 to 1995. Chunli was a bronze medallist at the 1997 World Cup and 4th in 1998, defeating the World Number 2, Li Ju in the competition. She peaked at a World Ranking of 19th.

Li was the first Commonwealth Games Champion in 2002, winning a gold in the singles over Li Jiawei of Singapore. She also won medals in the teams, doubles and mixed doubles events. She retired after the 2004 Athens games, but returned and qualified 2nd at the 2012 Olympic Games Qualification in Oceania. She was Oceania Cup champion in 2012 and still holds a World Ranking today of 144th. With a rapid penhold, short pimple attacking game, Li Chunli plays traditionally using the same side for all her backhand strokes. With a strong focus on service and fast drives and smashes, Li proves she still has the speed to keep up with many opponents out on the table. She was part of the team which won 3rd division at this year's World Team Championships.

5. Krisztina Toth - Hungary

Krisztina Toth - Hungary
Krisztina Toth turned 40 years old this year and has a wealth of experience. She is a left handed inverted rubber shakehand player who peaked at 13th in the ITTF World Rankings and remained top 100 in the world until November 2013, leaving the World Ranking list at 112th in January 2014. She is a 4 time European Championships singles medallist and boasted wins in her career over such players as Feng Tianwei, Georgina Pota, Tie Yana, Kim Jong and many others. She finished in the Top 3 in the European Top 12 on 3 occasions.

Toth earned over 20 European Championship medals in her career and had class in her game style, often resorting to creative shots and world class lobbing. She could in style terms be compared as a female Jan-Ove Waldner, with her masterful control and superb looping game.

A wealth of experience among these 5 champions of table tennis and all the respect in the world for their level of skill, commitment and passion to the sport. We salute you!

Thursday 16 October 2014

Can Zhang Jike Take Another Piece of the Grand Slam Puzzle?

Zhang Jike rapidly took to his new goal of claiming a second Grand Slam by claiming gold at the 2013 World Table Tennis Championships. With the Olympics in the near distance, the ultimate priority for Jike now is to claim a second World Cup title. Can he claim that piece of his second puzzle?

Can Zhang Jike win a second World Cup?

The ITTF Leibherr World Cup will take place in Dusseldorf, Germany which poses a dangerous environment for the top 2 seeds, Ma Long and Zhang Jike. No doubt a strong European crowd will be in place behind the top European competitors. The crowds will surely be putting their support behind their home athletes, 3rd seed Dimitrij Ovtcharov and 5 time World Cup medallist Timo Boll (twice a winner in 2002 and 2005).

In order to win Zhang Jike will have to put all his reservations aside. In the 4th seed position is Jun Mizutani of Japan who Zhang is all too familiar with. In 2010 Jike found himself battling back from a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3 at his first World Cup appearance. Jike went on to lose the final to Wang Hao. At that World Cup only one other player defeated Zhang Jike, in the group stages, and that player was 5th seed Chuang Chih-Yuan who exceeded expectation in a spectacular match. Check it out below!

Marcos Freitas also enters the mix, having excellent results to help Portugal at the recent European Champs where they made history by defeating Germany in the final on their home turf. Tang Peng is the final player in the top 8, though Jike maintains a flawless win record against the player from Hong Kong.

A wealth of experience lies within the World Cup field and we all know on the right day any of these athletes has potential to upset any of the top seeds, however the real task for Zhang Jike will be against one of his biggest rivals, Ma Long.

Ma Long was the 2012 World Cup champion and holds a record 15 ITTF Pro Tour titles to his name. His international performances against Zhang Jike have mostly been in Ma's favour though the players have drawn closer together in the last couple of years.

Can Zhang Jike rise to the occasion as he so often does in the major world events. This will be a true test of how determined Zhang Jike is to rise to head coach Liu Guoliang's challenge. Can Zhang Jike move on great step forward in his mission to be the first player to win 2 Grand Slams?

Deng Yaping has been the closest to achieving this feat thus far, being the only player to win 2 Olympic Games titles, combined with her 3 World Championship singles titles and a lonely single World Cup title. This is the moment for Zhang Jike, winning here would restore Liu Guoliang's faith in his ability to complete the task at the Rio Olympic Games. Can he do it? What do you think?

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Why Karakasevic's Backhand Deserves Recognition

Having watched a relatively large quantity of table tennis videos in my time and a few specific ones about the best backhands I decided to write this blog post about one of the more lesser recognised players. I was also reading over something about the top 10 backhand players of all time. Granted these 10 players were all great players, but the backhand of Serbia's Aleksandar Karakasevic in my opinion stands in ability to equal the 10 on the list.

The Power of Backhand Video

Of course Kreanga is noted as the backhand player of the modern age for his wild swings and powerful backhands far from the table. The man is able to counterloop with equal power on both wings. So with such status in the world of backhand, how does Karakasevic stack up with the Greek God of Backhands?

Karakasevic, a worthy backhand player!

Well, if you have ever watched Karakasevic play, many of you may not have, he is all class. Not the most orthodox style in the world but the versatility of his backhand is incredible. The left hander has such an impressive range of options on his backhand. From soft blocking to blocking early in the bounce, counterlooping and punching, slow spinning and third balling.

Not only this but he displays an amazing level of confidence in his backhand, so much so that he has been known to cover a large area of the table with it, even coming well across onto his forehand side to favour his backhand. This is the true definition of a backhand dominant player. There also aren't many players who are comfortable playing full strength counterloop off their backhand side when back from the table. Karakasevic is truly an anomaly player in this regard.

Karakasevic was a European Championships bronze medallist in 2011 and had a highly notable win at the 1997 World Championships where he beat 1996 Olympic Champion Liu Guoliang.

Take a moment to watch the match above where Aleksandar Karakasevic defeated Tiago Apolonia 3-1 in the 2012/2013 Bundesliga season. The number of incredible backhand plays is beyond impressive. Granted the Serbian doesn't have the best physical form or footwork, his touch on the backhand is fantastic.

After seeing this and perhaps some other matches you may choose to agree that Karakasevic is in fact one of the best backhand players of the modern era of table tennis. Would love to hear feedback and opinions on this one! :)