Sunday, 6 June 2010

Oh ; What a May it has been

What a May it has been. If you have been a sports fan, that is. I already posted on the day that the earth shook here. May also saw the world team table tennis championships for the Corbillon (women) and Swaythling (men) Cups. This time it was held in Moscow.

China dominates the world of table tennis in a way few countries can dominate in any sport. It is the national sport of China. China wins everything in table tennis, whichever team it sends – its top team or its fifth team.

Last Sunday, I settled down on a lazy Sunday late afternoon to watch the finals. Of course China had come easily to both the men’s and women’s finals. They hadn’t lost a match. I wasn’t expecting anything to be different in the finals as well, but when the Chinese play table tennis its sheer poetry. So I settled down to watch even thought I was expecting to see a whitewash. How wrong I was.

First was the women’s final for the Corbillon Cup. Pitted against mighty China was tiny Singapore. Singapore can’t play TT for nuts. But they have adopted, at least on the women’s side, the concept of importing Chinese and giving them citizenship. A little bit like the Kenyans who run for the Arab countries. China had fielded a very young team. The unbeatable star of the last 10 years – Zhang Yining had got married and decided to skip this event. The Chinese inexplicably benched Guo Yue, who has lots of experience in international events and fielded the world’s top ranked, but inexperienced Liu Shiwen , Ding Ning, and Guo Yan. Feng Tianwei, Singapore’s No1, who took Singapore citizenship only 2 years ago won both her singles. Amazingly China, lost the finals 3-1 ; in terms of a sports upset this was off the Richter scale. Singapore, a country that has won nothing ever in any sport, were the world champions. Any other country would have gone completely crazy ; Singapore being a nanny state, looked to its “paramount leader” to tell them that they could feel happy.

Next came the Men’s final – China against Germany. Usually, its an all Asian final. But Timo Boll of Germany was playing the finest table tennis of his life and winning everything. Germany beat Korea and was now playing China in the finals.

First up was Timo Boll against Ma Long. Ma had risen to be the World No 1 ranked player. Young, extremely fit, he has a ferocious forehand – if you take one of his forehand shots on your body, you’ll get an almighty bruise – such is the power he wields. He had been in top form in the tournament and the match developed into a classic. Ma won the first two games. But then Boll fought. And how he fought. Inch by inch he climbed back into the match. A good crowd started to go berserk. Every neutral was cheering Germany. But China had its won contingent of fans, as always and thunderous shouts of “Zhonghuo Jia You” – the Chinese cheer, rent the air. The fifth game swung this way and that. Finally Boll won. Germany 1- China 0. What on earth was happening.

Into that cauldron walked Ma Lin, Beijing Olympics gold medalist. Ma Lin is an old hand, very experienced, but he wasn’t in the best of form. Ma Lin was amazingly relaxed and even had a smile – he is usually poker faced and looks like a robot while he destroys his opponents. This time he was pumped up, but calm and using all his experience he easily beat Dimitrij Ovtcharov. And then young Zhang Jike, a surprise choice for the third singles found himself in all sorts of trouble against Christian Suss, but held his nerve to win.

That set up Timo Boll against Ma Lin. And what a match that was. Every point was fought and Timo Boll played perhaps some of the best table tennis he has ever played. But Ma Lin, with all his experience, lifted his game and simply would not let Boll get away. It swung this way and that, but Ma finally held match and championship point. He took it and China went delirious. Ma Lin had held nervous China together and won for his country. Timo Boll looked crushed, but every Chinese player went and hugged him, for he had played divinely. Well done Germany ; you were heroes even though you lost. And Ma Lin, showed that despite all the talent and youth and fitness you can have, the old dog can show a trick or two. It was a day of table tennis that those privileged to watch would never forget.

I had watched non stop edge of the seat action for some four hours. I still can’t get over what a day it was. On such days, sports transcends everything to become almost divine .....


  1. Excellent!!
    You tempt me to watch sports.

  2. I wish you would watch movies and write reviews on them ;) You would definitely give the professional[not amateurs like me] movie critics a run for their money!

  3. //I wasn’t expecting anything to be different in the finals as well, but when the Chinese play table tennis its sheer poetry//

    I was not expecting anything to be different while reading this post, but when you write these posts its sheer poetry. One can't afford to loose attention for a single moment. :-)

    You make me go crazy about any sport that you follow and for which I have little passion. Indeed, earth shakes when such phenomenon happens in sports.

    Though India's consecutive losses to Zimbabwe in tri-series cricket did not shake the earth for sure. & Nadal's fifth French Open Title neither did so!

  4. Everytime you do this, I go online, hunt for the link and watch it! :) And I almost watch them with your eyes, with your commentory ringing in my head! (its a childhood quirk. I read something and it all comes up alive for me!)

  5. Sandhya Sriram7/6/10

    i second vishal verbatim.

    when you wield the power of your pen (laptop can i say), you kill!!

    i sometimes feel that this is like a stage, and you are like that rock star performing, and i am like one of those fans go bizarre and Ecstatic and not knowing what to do. i think there are many here who would join me

    You are amazingly out of the world - Ramesh

  6. @ambulisamma - hey so sweet. Thanks.

    @zeno - I can never hope to reach your heights of movie reviews zeno ; you are a class act.

    @vishal - Your world cup series is better than my occasional sports writing. Yes the cricket and tennis have been a trifle disappointing to say the least. Still Nadal played out of the world.

    @Deepa - awww; such a lovely comment. Do you really do that ??

    @sandhya - Whenever I feel down, I only have to go read any one of your comments. You are so so so kind Sandhya - what can I say to you .....

  7. @Ramesh- Yep! No kidding!

  8. super commentry..economics cum sports commentator :D

  9. @gils - :) Given a choice I would rather do sports than economics, but one has to eat, you see :)

  10. Firstly...glad to see you back. Secondly ... this is totally not fair. Your posts like these make me want to work out and change the channel. That is so tiring. I used to be good at TT too....till I realized that we had to keep the ball on the table. ;)

  11. Now, I second you Sandhya and join you in your thoughts.

    Ramesh - Thanks for the kind words. Though I feel I am just a novice in the blogworld whereas you are the "blogking" and "Writing Wizard" :-)

  12. Your last but one paragraph is so well written, you should write a novel. I am not a sports junkie like you but the tension, drama and triumph were all so palpable.

  13. @blogueur - I bet you were verty good at TT

    @Vishal - Hey, you are no novice. Your world cup football series in your blog is a lovely read. I hope you'll keep reviewing every match as it happens !

    @J - Thanks. I am sports junkie indeed, somewhat like the millions of film junkies that inhabit this space !!

  14. Anonymous9/6/10

    chaancela thala...Davinci code robert langdon mathiri..sportslayum pathiyum pichi udhareenga...engayooooooo poiteenga neenga

  15. TT played before our eyes via your eyes. Virtual teleport. :)

    Are you planning to watch FIFA? Would love to see how you look at it.

  16. @gils - mikka nenri. yengeyum pola saar. china kkuthan poyirukken !!

    @RamMmm - Thanks. Yes, of course I'll watch the football world cup, but the timings are not very conducive for China. Still .....

  17. Ramesh ... excellent write up! For someone who had no interest in sports, your post made me regret not watching the TT matches! :-)

  18. @thoughtful train - Wonderful to see you here again and thanks for the kind words. Isn't Sachin a sports nut ??


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