Jeff Plumb wrote this on the 26-May-2014 04:18:58 PM
The first Australian Open to be part of the ITTF World Tour for over a decade attracted some of the World's best players and delivered some of the best table tennis the country has seen, for the most part.
The highlight for the crowd was the quarter final match between William Henzell and Chun Ting Wong ranked 45 in the World. Wong managed to take the first set but Henzell came back and showed no nerves in closing out the match to win 4 games to 2. Henzell later said in an interview that this was one of the best wins of his career. The highlight for the crowd could easily of been Henzell's semi-final match against Wu Zhikang but Wu spoiled the party beating Henzell 11-9 in the deciding 7th set. The rowdy crowd was stunned into silence after it seemed Henzell would win the match after racing to a 3-1 lead.
Zhan Jian had an impressive tournament, and after coming runner up in the Philippines Open, was looking to go one better in Australia. Zhan beat the 2 unpredictable Japanese power players Kohei Sambe, and Asuka Sakai, in the quarter final and semi-final respectively. He looked on track to record his first ever ITTF World Tour victory. The week before he had beaten Wu Zhikang 4-0 in the quarter final of the Philippines Open. Now he faced him again, this time in the final of the Australian Open. Zhan is ranked nearly 90 places ahead of Wu however the final was not to go his way. From the start of the match, he did not appear to be trying to win. It was sad to see a great player not fighting for every point, especially with an ITTF World Tour event on the line. The two players did keep the points entertaining for the crowd, but a player of Zhan's standard does not push the ball long and step back from the table, especially considering he plays with short pimples on his forehand. This makes it critical he remains up close to the table because when you move back, the short pimples quickly become a weakness. My opinion is that the Singapore team instructed him to lose so Wu Zhikang would receive a boost in his World ranking at Zhan's expense. This was a great tournament and it's a shame Henzell couldn't sneak over the line in the semi-final to give the tournament the final it deserved.
Wu Zhikang himself had a good tournament, and his win over Henzell with the crowd against him, showed off his great fighting spirit. However the fact that Zhan handed him the title must leave him feeling a little bit deflated knowing he did not earn the victory. And unfortunately the result of the final also makes me question his quarter final win over another of his team mates, Chen Feng.
The Japanese boys of Kohei Sambe and Asuka Sakai were simply unbelievable to watch. They are only small Men but generate incredible amounts of power, and use it in pressure situations often with good results! They often look off balance or out of position and then pull off the most miraculous shots. It is exciting table tennis to watch! The problem though, is that at the moment it looks like any shot they make could either be a screaming winner or bad miss. When you watch the best in the World, it looks like they will never miss. Their challenge will be to harness their power, and improve their consistency by improving their footwork and balance.
Asuka Sakia's match against Yang Zi in the quarter final was the most entertaining match of the tournament. Sakai saved numerous match points with outrageous counter topspins against quality loops from Yang that would have been good enough to win the point against almost any other player in the World. It was the highest scoring match of the tournament, with Sakai winning 90 points, and Yang Zi 89. It also produced the highest game score where Yang Zi won 19-17 in the fourth set. Yang Zi fought incredibly hard and won many friends in the crowd through his determination against the power play of Sakai, and against many nets and edges that all seemed to go against him. Yang Zi lost 11-7 9-11 8-11 19-17 15-13 15-17 12-14. The last 4 sets all going past 10 all.
In the main draw of the Men's Singles there were 31 Matches, 161 sets, and 2927 points. There were 11 four setters (35%), 8 five setters (26%), 7 six setters (23%), and 5 seven setters (16%). The most common set score was 11-9 occurring 18% of the time.
The standout performer was top 10 Player Feng Tianwei who has stormed back into the Winner's circle by not only winning the Australian Open, but also the Philippines Open the week before. The most impressive aspect of her play was her incredible balance. Throughout the tournament she seemed to be in position for every ball her opponents played. From the grand stands Feng appears to be a serious character, rarely smiling on the court but it was great to see her acknowledging the crowd after her victory in Australia. We all hope she comes back to defend her title next year.
Mima Ito, the 13 year old wonder kid from Japan was another great story to rise from the Australian Open. She won the U/21 Singles and made it to the semi final of the Women's Singles before losing respectably to Feng Tianwei 0-4. It will be interesting to track her progress over the coming years. She has raced up to number 64 in the World with strong performances recently. Will the pressure of expectation start to slow her down, or can she keep climbing up the rankings and become a top 10 player in the World?
In the main draw of the Women's Singles there were 31 Matches, 150 sets, 2722 points. There were 14 four setters (45%), 10 five setters (32%), 5 six setters (16%), and 2 seven setters (7%). 11-7 was the most common score occurring in 18% of the sets.
For all the fine details, take a look at our 2014 Australian Open page.