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The End of Chinese Dominance in Table Tennis?

In this Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Platinum, German Open in Magdeburg, GER (7 Nov 2017 – 12 Nov 2017), all the top Chinese players lost! This is not the first time, Chinese player didn’t advance to the final match. In the previous tournament (World Cup 2017), Ma Long lost to Timo Boll, Lin Gaoyuan lost to Timo Boll. China Table Tennis has fallen in German Open 2017. Or the end of the Chinese dominance in table tennis?

1. Zhang Jike lost

In the 1/16, Zhang Jike lost to Apolonia Tiago 1-4. It’s not the shock! Zhang Jike playing style is out-dated. He can’t get the highest position anymore.

This year, Chinese table tennis has lost in major event
This year, Chinese table tennis has lost in major event

2. Lin Gaoyuan lost

Lin Gaoyuan has won Chuang Ch-Y. 4-0 in the previous round. He said:

“I think I played okay today, but Chuang Chih-Yuan didn’t seem to be able to play his best. In the next match, I’ll see if I can take revenge for my World Cup loss”, Lin Gaoyuan.

In the World Cup, Lin Gaoyuan has lost to Timo Boll. Somebody says to me that I should consider Lin Gaoyuan as a good candidate to the Olympics Tokyo 2020. No! He is too young, less experience, and his playing style is not ferocious enough (not like Ma Long or Fan Zhendong). He is rather soft, and not mental tough (like Zhou Yu).

Timo Boll has the confidence to play with Lin Gaoyuan:

“Lin Gaoyuan seems to be in good shape again, but I know how to play against him. It’s still not going to be easy because he has a lot of variations in his play and is very good with the smaller details”, Timo Boll.

Timo Boll this time has won Lin Gaoyuan 4-1.

Lin Gaoyuan lost 2 times in a row to Timo Boll
Lin Gaoyuan lost 2 times in a row to Timo Boll

3. Xu Xin lost

During the Chinese Trials, Liu Guoliang has criticized Xu Xin. He won’t be the top 4 anymore with the new ball. The new poly ball has removed the advantage of the penholder. Xu Xin needs to move a lot to use his forehand, but the rallies are quicker now and attack to the wide angle. Xu Xin has big disadvantages.

Xu Xin lost to Lee Sang Su 0-4 (11-6, 11-9, 11-4, 12-10). In the previous round, he just barely wins Marcos Freitas 4-3.

“I’m very happy to win, but I think he’s not playing with as much power. I think his last match with Marcos Freitas was too tiring, he won 4-3, played a lot of forehands and moved a lot, so I think this match he wasn’t in his 100%. So even though I’m very happy to win, it’s 80% happiness and 20% mixed feelings”, Lee Sangsu.

4. Fan Zhendong lost

Fan Zhendong lost to Dimitrij Ovtcharov in a close game 3-4. (11-13, 7-11, 11-7 11-3, 9-11, 11-8, 13-15).

Wang Hao didn’t coach very well this match. Ovtcharov played very well with his powerful backhand quick attack. Fan Zhendong was under pressure. He could finish the match with the score of 4-2.

The dominance of China table tennis?

China Table Tennis is still the number 1 force in table tennis. However, it’s not like before: Domination.

Today, table tennis is more balanced. Chinese top players are no longer the “dominance force”. Why?

I would say China table tennis is no longer the “Dominant Force” as before. They are much weaker now.

  • The lost of the head coach.
  • The perturbation due to the political reason.
  • The pass of one generation (Golden Age).
  • The lack of the next generation.
  • The new coaching staff (Wang Hao, Ma Lin) is weaker than the previous staff.
  • And the improvement of the rest of the world (Germany, France, Korea, Japan).

The main reason is “the transition of the generation”. The old and the best generation (both coach, and player) touch the down-side of their career. The new generation (coach and player) is not strong enough.

1. The role of the head coach Liu Guoliang

Many amateur players think that “It’s normal that the Chinese player is the champion”. They think that it’s normal. Wrong! The level gap between the Chinese player and the world is much closer now. The rest of the world has studied Chinese table tennis techniques a lot. There is no more “secret” in China table tennis. The concept “Power from the ground”, “Hit with the legs”, and hard tacky Chinese rubber is no longer secret.

Wang Hao's coaching at the German Open 2017
Wang Hao’s coaching at the German Open 2017

The small difference that helps top Chinese table tennis win the match is the coaching. They have one of the best coaches in the world, Liu Guoliang. He is the genius in the table tennis tactics, psychological, and mental aspect. He understands their player, and at the right timing, the right tactics, helps the player win.

If there is Liu Guoliang there, Lin Gaoyuan won’t lost to Timo Boll when leading 10-4.

Look at the face of Wang Hao, no emotion! helpless! Wang Hao and Ma Lin still need to learn from Liu Guoliang a lot in the coaching aspect in the intense match.

Without Liu Guoliang, Kong Linghui, and coach Xiao Zhan, China Team is less effective.

Coach Liu Guozheng didn’t have many international experiences. He is the lead coach in the team B. Xu Xin’s personal coach will retire soon.

Good Bye Coach Xiao Zhan

Watch this video.

2. The gap is closer

The rest of the world improve. Everybody learns and improve their techniques. To maintain at the top position, the player and the coach is under high pressure.

Liu Guoliang interview, he is under pressure
Liu Guoliang interview, he is under pressure

Liu Guoliang in the interview on CCTV has said that “He wanted to quit the position of the head coach. So many pressure.”

In the major event, especially in Rio Olympics 2016, and the WTTC Dusseldorf, Liu Guoliang can’t sleep well. He also lost several kilograms. You understand that it’s not easy to win. The match is now very close, only one small error will cost you the match.

At the highest level, it’s not the technique, but the tactics and the mental will decide your performance.

3. The golden age has ended

This is the end of the cycle. The golden age of Chinese table tennis: Ma Long, Xu Xin, Zhang Jike will end soon. The cycle is normally last about 7 to 9 years, which correspond to the peak performance in an athlete’s career.

They started in 2010, 2011, so this cycle will end in 2019. It’s normal. China National Team needs to find another source, younger generation to replace. However, young player like Lin Gaoyuan didn’t have much experience and need to learn more to compete.

In China National Team (Team A), Zhang Jike and Xu Xin fade away. Lin Gaoyuan is too young. Yan An, Zhou Yu can’t win the top 10 of the world consistently. Fang Bo is a bit old, and not very effective. The most confident player actually is Fan Zhendong and Ma Long.

There is only Ma Long and Fan Zhendong, who are the most stable right now.

4. The new ball and the new trend in table tennis

There is a “mini-crisis” now in the Chinese national team. There is also the new trend in table tennis. Table tennis players need to change and adapt to the new ball.

Welcome to the more balanced table tennis era. Let see who will be the table tennis champion of the Olympics Tokyo 2020!

Chinese table tennis is still the best, but no longer domination force and unbeatable.


China Table Tennis no longer dominates the world as before
China Table Tennis no longer dominates the world as before

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Table tennis coach in France since 2012, founder of pingsunday.com (the best online coaching program for table tennis players). Born in Vietnam in 1983, Ph.D. in Université Pierre Marie Curie. Read more about him.

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