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  1. Trismegistus is offline
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    #1

    Comparing Ma Long's first and sixth ITTF Finals wins

    I made this thread because I wanted to compare Ma Long's most recent ITTF finals win today to his first one back in 2008, and see how he's changed as a player.

    Here is a video of his 2008 quarterfinal (please let me know if you find a longer one!)


    2008 semi:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c3RatBD6OP4

    2008 final:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sq_uaZTcNVI

    You can easily find this year's matches on YouTube.

    My quick notes:

    -Ma Long's game has changed so much over time, such that 2008 Ma Long and 2020 Ma Long are completely different players. What's impressive, though, is that despite the differences in style, both versions are playing at an absolutely world-beating level.

    -Aesthetically, I prefer the 2008 version of Ma Long's game. His movements are somehow simultaneously fluid and explosive - in the quarterfinal against Wang Liqin, check out Ma Long's forehand at around 0:17 and the point he plays to win the first game (11-1!). There's no question that ML's raw athleticism has declined in the years since.
    There's also no question that, at his best, young Ma Long's game was dominant. In the 2008 Grand Finals, he beat the Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, and Wang Hao in succession, all pretty comfortably.

    -However, 2020 Ma Long is a much more versatile player, such that he doesn't need to rely on raw athleticism as much. His backhand has evolved so much, and his shot selection is highly optimized for his game.
    -Incidentally, I think this kind of shot selection/game optimization is basically what's behind his supposedly improved mental strength. Note - I'm not saying his mental strength isn't good, I'm saying I think the mental weakness narrative was overblown. It's a lot harder to try to make a daring counterloop at 9-9 than to execute a solid short push or pull out a different serve variation. By improving these more mundane but crucial aspects of his game, Ma Long has put himself in the position of not needing to pull out a spectacular shot on every point, which makes his life much easier!

    (I think it would also be interesting to do a comparison on FZD. Like ML, FZD is a player whose best has never been anything short of dominant).

    What are your thoughts on 2008 Ma Long and/or 2020 Ma Long?

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  2. passifid is offline
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    #2
    2015 ma long was the best ma long. Enough improvement on the normal play and backhand and unbeatable technique. 14-18 he hasn't ever not been a favourite really

  3. vvk1 is offline
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    #3
    The change from celluloid to plastic ball has changed the game more than player's natural aging.

  4. Trismegistus is offline
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    #4
    Quote Originally Posted by vvk1
    The change from celluloid to plastic ball has changed the game more than player's natural aging.
    I agree that ball change has changed some aspects of the game, but I'm not sure that it's responsible for all the changes we see. Ma Long in 2014 (prior to the ball change) had already changed dramatically from his early playstyle, adopting a much closer-to-the-table play style. I actually feel that the 2014 Ma Long is in many ways more similar to the current one than the 2008-2009 one.
    So yes, I think the ball change has affected things to some degree. But there's a lot of factors that lead players to change their style, year-to-year. I also don't think Ma Long's success has much to do with the ball change (though I grant that it will look that way at first glance, there are so many variables constantly constantly in motion, and table tennis outcomes are highly stochastic - we have a tendency to assume that observed outcomes are the product of some kind of inevitable process, when in reality they represent one value randomly sampled out of a probability distribution). Ok, rambling now .

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  5. Atas Newton is online now
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    Atas Newton is online now
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    #5
    1:18 in the first video, oh the glorious celluloid era.
    the commentator lists Grand Slam winners, calls JOW John Oev Wellner, LGL Louis Goodland (not kidding)

  6. bzing is online now
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    #6
    I think Ma Long has learnt to control his power and compared to the early matches where he used just raw power in every shot, seems like he tries to be more patient and wait for the right moment to strike the ball and overall tries to implement more strategy side into the game, and realizes that rather than using 100% power in every shot, you can use sometimes 50% of power but use different angles and ways at hitting the ball and still win the point.

    This is just what I have observed personally, that he's learnt to attack but not at all cost and try to keep the opponent at bay as to have a control of the opponent rather than the opponent having a control on him.

    FZD is a huge challenge for him it seems as he's always ahead of the time to hit the ball. I think ML is trying to focus more on the anticipation of the ball as he gets older. Too many times he got caught by FZD on his wide forehand and in the last match I think he showed some improvement in there where FZD fast BH shots down the line didn't completely catch ML off guard and was able to return those shots.

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    Last edited by bzing; 11-23-2020 at 01:57 PM.

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