View Full Version : My account of the World Cup in Düsseldorf

10-30-2014, 02:33 PM
Here are some pictures (http://imgur.com/a/8N6ED). Didn't take too many as I was too busy enjoying the world cup :) If there's any interest, I could upload a video of the players warming up behind the curtain.
I was at the World Cup 2014 on Sunday and this was the first table tennis tournament that I had been to. I firstly just wanted to write my experiences just as a diary entry but I decided to share it with anyone who would be interested in reading it. I watched some of the highlights later on and the matches look quite different through a computer screen and filmed from the angle that ITTF records in than what they looked like while I watched them live. Nevertheless, I wrote down everything that I observed during the World Cup. Some points were perhaps too fast to completely process but I felt that I was able to get a more realistic view of how the very best players play as I could compare it directly with how the best players in my club play.
What amazed me the most during the matches was how much faster the players were moving compared the angle that is shown on TV. For example Timo Boll was hopping to another part of the table going back to neutral position slightly squatting and completing a stroke and going back to a neutral postion and anticipating the next ball in milliseconds during some really fast exchanges. I managed to catch a glimpse of all of the players practicing behind a huge curtain. Timo Boll seemed to be very relaxed and was just trying to get a feel of the ball. Mizutani and Matsudaira (who was eliminated on Saturday) were practicing quite seriously. Ma Long was practicing his serves and Zhang Jike kept practicing his BH as well as the Banana flick (these won him the tournament later)
Ma Long vs Mizutani: Except for the Chinese group of fans, people were watching quietly and intently but being quite neutral. A couple of Germans were cheering Mizutani on. The game looked almost too easy for Ma Long. Mizutani played a couple of excellent rallies but Ma Long was just too strong. The biggest difference between the two was how fast Ma Long was able to get into position and how well he was able to place the ball. During this game I was able to appreciate how calm the players were while surrounded by thousands of people. I can't imagine serving my riskiest serves in front of so many people. Also, Mizutani's high toss serve is really, really high.
Timo Boll vs Zhang Jike: I already had a lot of respect for Timo Boll as a sportsman but I never really thought that he was a great player. However, watching this match up close completely changed my view. The crowd went crazy of course when Timo walked in and didn't lose its energy until the last point.
The thing that stood out the most about Timo Boll was just how compact and quick his strokes were. He was reading the game extremely well and moving very early and quickly. He seemed to complete his strokes even faster than Zhang Jike. Zhang Jike seemed to be in top form compared to what we saw in the tournament earlier. I think that we saw the fastest exchanges in this match (barring a few points between ML and ZJK).
TB played extremely well to get a good lead in the next couple of sets but unforced errors and ZJK in good form put him at 1:3. However, in the next two sets TB was almost otherworldly. The crowd was behind him and he made the next two sets look almost easy. This portion was the highlight of the day. He played two backhands to extreme regions of the table to end the point directly. During one point, he pushed ZJK further and further from the table with really fast forehands and blocked the ball to the center with his backhand. He couldn't sustain that level for the 7th set and lost the match. Liu Guoliang was very animated during the match (he got huge cheers from the Chinese group when he walked in) and if I remember correctly, he took a timeout that increased ZJK's lead in the 4th set. In one of the sets I think at 8:9, ZJK was wasting time very deliberately and got a yellow card. I watched the highlights of the match and it really doesn't do justice to just how both of the players were moving. The difference between the speed of Timo Boll's strokes and the strokes of the best in my club were so much more apparent once I saw the game live. I've only watched one match on YouTube that is filmed at such an angle so that the rallies look much more realistic (Ma Long vs Wang Hao German Open 2010).
One good thing that he did was that he stayed closer to the table. He doesn't have the raw power and stamina to match ZJK far from the table but he played with more risk which resulted in errors but also some breathtaking points. If only he had managed to convert the leads in the earlier sets, ZJK would have been out quite quickly. Nevertheless, TB still got huge cheers for his performance. He apologized later in German that he was unable to win but thanked the crowd for supporting him.
Break: There was a 90 minute break. I managed to get Dima's and Jörgen Persson's signature after waiting in a huge line. Dima seemed to be in good spirits and was smiling at everyone though Persson seemed to be very jetlagged. DHS, Yasaka, Butterfly, DONIC, STIGA etc. etc. had all of their stalls set up in a ring outside the inner part of the DOME. I quickly looked through all of them. There were some good discounts though my rubbers are only 50 days old so I felt that I would be better off spending extra than getting rubbers that might deteriorate over the next couple of months. DHS was selling the Long 3 blade at 120 euros (down from 199) but that blade is way too fast and expensive for me anyway. I found the Yasaka Mark V M2 very interesting as it is supposed to be a slightly faster version of the Mark V. The queue for buying food was also very long so I managed to get to my seat just when Mizutani and TB were just about to enter for the Bronze medal match.
TB vs Mizutani: TB was noticeably slower in this match (probably tired after his match with ZJK). He was moving at Waldner's speed in the first set but got slightly faster as the game went on. I thought that he was able to win it while playing at 70%. The crowd wasn't as loud as in the match vs ZJK but became very loud before crucial moments to motivate Timo. He has never had problems against Mizutani. Mizutani again played some really amazing points but during the second set it was quite clear to me who was going to win. Mizutani needed so much more time to execute his forehand compared to Boll.
ZJK vs Ma Long: This match was extremely long and almost made me miss my bus (thanks ZJK) but it made me appreciate the mental aspect of the game. Timo Boll is so good because he is able to slip into the subconscious (according to his semi-autobiography). ZJK is so good because he can raise his game in difficult situations. I and most of the chinese group were behind Ma Long but they were relatively quiet compared to the earlier matches. The Dome was still full for this match, which was good to see.
When Ma Long's game was flowing freely, he completely overpowered ZJK (I think he won 11:2 in one set). He would always race to 6:0 only to see ZJK catching up later. Ma Long still has some problems with his nerves but he seemed to have improved on that front by quite a lot as he saved two match points in the 7th set. Quite honestly, I have no idea how anyone can play table tennis under such intense scrutiny and pressure so I would still say that Ma Long's nerves are an order of magnitude better than the average club player but they still seem to be hindering his game.
I also felt that Ma Long played a more complicated game and has a lot of options for the same ball because of his abilities but maybe this resulted in him making more mistakes. ZJK kept things simple but effective (also wasted time after the 5th set) and kept his concentration. I remember that yoda_of_tt once said that he admired Zhang Jike tactical discipline and I think that I saw that on display today. Both players were nervous in the 7th set (I could see both of their hands trembling while serving) but ZJK handled it better. Honestly, 4:3 after a deuce in the 7th is the closest that table tennis can get to a tie. I still had the impression that if ML had ZJK's temperament in crucial situations, he would have been able to win even though ZJK was at his best. However, the most successful table tennis player need not be the most technically capable one or the most intelligent (I read somewhere that LGL rate's Ma Long's tactical ability above ZJK's).
I remember a backhand sidespin chop block by Ma Long after which the entire crowd gasped. It was so well timed and you only heard a very soft "snick" as the spin on the ball was converted. I think he played two more Chop blocks which didn't work out for him.
I always root for Ma Long (unless he plays Timo or Dima) and was gutted that ML didn't manage to win. It would have done wonders for his confidence and I felt that he deserved it after all of his hard work. I felt quite bad for him after the match. He just wiped his racket and sat down alone on a chair for a while. He didn't show too much of a reaction after the match but I think that he was putting up a strong front in front of everyone. None of the Chinese trainers were anywhere to be seen during the match. I saw Liu Guoliang congratulate Zhang Jike but I didn't see anyone approach Ma Long. However, ZJK still played awesome table tennis so the victory was not undeserved.
ZJK's celebration: I didn't hear any booeing in the Dome. Some of us were shocked and some were laughing and others were cheering. I felt it was over the top and not respectful towards Ma Long. After kicking one barrier, he walked over to the other side and kicked that barrier as well. I unfortunately had to leave and catch the bus but managed to see Timo Boll wearing the bronze medal.
Thoughts on the plastic ball: I think that the ITTF's reason for changing to the plastic ball has backfired on them. Players are playing closer to the table with more risk in order to avoid spending so much energy away from the table. Everyone was playing a riskier game. The technical advantage that ML has over Zhang Jike away from the table might have been lowered because both of them were playing closer to the table.

10-30-2014, 03:08 PM
lovely report.

10-30-2014, 03:09 PM
looking forward to the pictures

10-30-2014, 03:41 PM
Here are the pictures :)


10-30-2014, 03:45 PM
wow!i wish i can go there sometime.

10-30-2014, 04:09 PM
Very good. Germany hold fantastic tournaments. I want to watch a tournament sometimes soon in Germany.

10-31-2014, 08:58 AM
Oh yes, I completely forgot to add that I saw Marcos Freitas roaming around while I was looking at the different stalls but I didn't bother him for a photo as I didn't want to disturb him and I'm not his greatest fan, especially after the ball tampering and the hidden serves that he did during the European Championship finals.