Some dogs are better kept in their cage around the clock. The thirty-six year old veteran Vladimir SAMSONOV did just that in his round of sixteen encounters with Zhang JIKE from China, the overwhelming favourite to win the gold medal in the London 2012 Olympics. The only problem for Vladi was that he forgot to double-check the lock of the cage between the fifth and sixth game. That was when the world champion Chinese, nick-named the “Tibetan Fighting Dog” by his coach LIU Guoliang, rattled the cage and found his way out. Zhang started aggressive enough in the sixth game, down two games to three, to take the command and force a seventh and deciding face off. Again he took the early lead firing off an incredible forehand top spin down the line in the very first point of the game and never looked back. Tough loss for the brave Vladimir SAMSONOV, who played up to his maximum capacity this very day and hour.
Michael MAZE came with his dancing shoes on this evening as well. MAZE almost blew out a confused and never comfortable Jun MIZUTANI with a series of shots that we haven’t seen since Shanghai World Championships 2005. Good to have him back in business for sure. At the same time – when are we going to see a Japanese player at this level step up his game, instead of repeatedly falling back from the table in a passive mode? Yes – confidence or lack thereof is probably the answer but then again – when is change coming. Apparently not this time for one of the most talented and exciting young players out there – Jun Mizutani who now is out of the London Olympic Games Men’s singles event. However the Japanese Hope for a medal in the Mens singles is still alive and now resting entirely on the drooping shoulders of Seiya KISHIKAWA.
Just a quick note touching on a brave female European athlete. I still feel for Victoria PAVLOVICH from Belarus who in the round of sixteen women’s singles looked like a “round million” in the sixth game against WANG Yuegu from Singapore. PAVLOVICH was leading 6-1 when the wind suddenly changed and the nerves took over. It was at times hard to watch as the thirty-one year old Belarus nr 1 desperately looked for answers but never found the lost rhythm in her defense . During a stretch from that point in the sixth, deep into the seventh game, the Singaporean rallied to win 12 out of fifteen points and in the end of course the whole match four games to three.
The hard part is that we as spectators and fans of Olympic Sport love the drama that comes with. We love it when the nerves hit the stands and make us feel a part of it all. Table Tennis is DRAMA – Table Tennis is a FUN sport to watch especially when the stakes are high and it’s close and tight. Having said that the pain – the shutting down or Olympic Dreams – four years to the next big show are the ingredients making this show so special. When PAVLOVICH holding her head high walked off the arena floor – I did think that this might be it for another top European female star. Next time around, in Rio 2016 , she will hit thirty-five years of age which on one side is nothing to be afraid of in Table Tennis – but still a tough “load” to carry around in a fast and furious sport.
Adrian CRISAN from Romania upset Timo BOLL and is now in the Olympic quarterfinals. This might be called as a big surprise by some, but not for those interested in head to head statistics. Crisan vs Boll was for many years a nightmare matchup for the German star, especially early in his career. Tough to believe though how few international events Boll has played in the last sixth months. Can you really stay away from pressure matches if you are looking for success at the Olympic Games?