TT gap closes a bit, but China still on top
China thoroughly dominated the 2022 World Team Table Tennis Championships, which ended on October 9, with crushing 3-0 victories in both finals. However, a stern challenge in the men’s semi-finals confirmed for some observers that the gap between China and the rest of the world is a bit smaller now.
Playing at home in Chengdu, China whipped Germany and Japan 3-0 in the finals, but while the all-star women’s team, led by Olympic champion Chen Meng and World champion Wang mowed down all their opponents, the men had to contend with Japan and 19-year-old world number four Tomokazu Harimoto. China won 3-2, but only after Harimoto reversed the result of the 2018 Youth Olympic final by beating Wang Chuqin and then edging World champion Fan Zhengdong.
Two-time Jamaican champion Peter Moo Young praised Harimoto, but commented, “A lot of people will point to the semi-finals, where Japan were able to get two points against China, but a lot of things went well for Japan in that match. Harimoto took two against China, a feat not many are able to achieve.”
The last man to do so was current Swedish coach Jorgen Persson in 2000, when his team won.
Harimoto lost early at the Olympics and the individual World Championships last year, leading the Jamaican to observe, “So Harimoto was the surprise of the tournament for me, but when I watched the match, he had a lot of lucky breaks,” in reference to shots that brushed the net at several crucial moments.
The Chinese placed three-time World and two-time Olympic gold medal winner Ma Long in the number three slot, restricting him to playing just once in the tie.
“I was very shocked that the strongest table tennis nation on earth, fielding two of the strongest players to ever walk the earth, would make a change in their playing order just out of consideration for a player who up to that point was not in the best of form and less of a threat that he’s ever been,” Moo Young said of Harimoto, who lost to world number 63 Ovidiu Ionescu of Romania earlier in Chengdu.
Second-seeded Germany came to the tournament without long-serving Timo Boll, two-time Olympic bronze medallist Dimitri Ovtcharov, and in-form Patrick Franziska. However, the Germans fought their way to the final with 3-2 wins over France and South Korea along the way.
“I think it’s a magnificent performance by Germany. I was one of the first people to call out why Germany were fielding such a weak, weak team,” the Jamaican said.
In the absence of its stars, newly crowned European champion Qiu Dang carried Germany’s hopes with his steady two-sided penhold style. Qiu, whose father is Chinese, lost to Ma 9-11, 6-11, 11-9, 1-11 in the final.
“Qiu Dang blocks too much for my liking for a top-class table tennis player. He’s too conservative. He plays too safe,” Moo Young evaluated.