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What is Liu Guoliang’s plan to save Chinese National Team

It’s a big challenge to the head coach Liu Guoliang. His task is to “save the performance” of the Chinese National Team and to secure the “Gold Medals” in the Tokyo Olympics 2020. That’s the main reason he comes back after being absent “politically” in 2017 (the cause of the forfeit scandal of Ma Long, Xu Xin, Fan Zhendong). Since then, China Team has some up-and-down. They don’t dominate like before the sport anymore.

Why Liu Guoliang?

What will Liu Guoliang do to save the Chinese National Team? China has many many good table tennis coaches.

But coach Liu is considered as the best coach which understand well the player’s capacity, and the tactical solution at the important moment. To dominate the sport, China Team has many types of coaches: physical coaches, technical coaches, training and nutrition coaches, analysis and tactical coaches.

Tomokazu Harimoto won Lin Gaoyuan in the Grand Final
Tomokazu Harimoto won Lin Gaoyuan in the Grand Final 2018

But Liu Guoliang (ex-Head Coach) is the one that can activate the “real power” of top Chinese players. He is well-known as the best “tactical and strategy” responsible for China Team. He is the one that requires a “closed training” for each special events (Olympics, World Championships, World Team).

During the “closed-training”, top Chinese players will practice intensively. And they will fix all the problem, and learn to deal with each “opponent”. All of this is to ensure a win during a real serious competition.

So in general, they train “3 months of practice just for 1h of a match and for one type of opponent”.

Hugo Calderano vs Fan Zhendong | 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals Highlights (1/4) - FULL HD

Watch this video.


Wang Hao was leading Fan Zhendong in the match versus Hugo Calderano in the ITTF Grand Final 2018. Wang Hao has a soft style, which is not good at the crucial moment. Liu Guoliang is much better for the bigger events like the Olympics. It’s not the first time.

Wang Hao needs to learn more from Liu Guoliang to deal with the pressure
Wang Hao needs to learn more from Liu Guoliang to deal with the pressure

China Team is in danger

It could be good news for the table tennis in the world. Chinese force is less dominant in the World. It could be more interesting to watch the sport.

It’s now, 45% (Rival) – 55% (Chinese) of winning percent. Not as 30% – 70% likes 10 years ago.

In the Women Team:

The powerful force of the Japanese team, Mima Ito is a new Deng Yaping of China which is a huge threat to China. This style has removed all of the strength of the Chinese women players. The speed has reduced the consistency, the variation, and the power of Ding Ning, Zhu Yuling, Chen Meng.

Mima Ito is the next Deng Yaping
Mima Ito is the next Deng Yaping

It’s a real “to fall into one”s own trap”. Because Deng Yaping style is made in China. And now, Japan has used the same strategy to counter China. Mima Ito has dominated Zhu Yuling 4-0. Which is rarely seen before.

Women's Doubles - Finals - Gold Medal Match, Hina HAYATA JPN and Mima ITO JPN beat CHEN Xingtong CHN and SUN Yingsha CHN 30. 2018 Pro tour Grand Finals
Women’s Doubles – Finals – Gold Medal Match, Hina HAYATA JPN, and Mima ITO JPN beat CHEN Xingtong CHN and SUN Yingsha CHN Pro tour Grand Finals (ITTF Photo)

In the Men Team:

Chinese lost the “World Tour Grand Final”. Due to the same rival (Harimoto Tomokazu), and the new Challenge (Hugo Calderano). With the same strategy, “super fast and quick attack – mostly on the backhand side”. For the forehand side, for instance, top Chinese players dominate the Sport with their specific forehand techniques.

Tomokazu Harimoto vs Lin Gaoyuan | 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals Highlights (Final)

Watch this video.


But the game has changed. The ball has changed. Closer, and quicker now. Fan Zhendong hasn’t been getting the job done in the latter part of this year. Lin Gaoyuan hasn’t been able to impose himself against the top 10 Ma Long major injury cloud, Xu Xin/Zhang Jike older & not as sharp. Harimoto Tomokazu also showing a serious threat going from strength to strength. Liu Guoliang said, “we should focus on Tomokazu”.

Lin Gaoyuan performance or Harimoto power
Lin Gaoyuan bad performance or Harimoto too powerful? Watch the final match

That’s the reason why Liu Guoliang will make a big change. Lin Gaoyuan is never a safe choice for China. He has weak mental, and he didn’t know what to do at the crucial moment. Unlike Zhang Jike, which is always “confident” with the head coach Liu Guoliang. Zhang Jike and Liu Guoliang were nearly “fearless” at the most important tournaments (I still remember the crazy moments).

A big challenge for Liu Guoliang to maintain the power force of China Team
A big challenge for Liu Guoliang to maintain the powerful force of China Team

A big change is coming

Liu Guoliang can handle not winning a Grand Final but couldn’t handle not taking out Gold Medals at Olympics. Huge pressure for the Chinese coaching staff, and players right now.

The team that lead Chinese table tennis
The team that lead Chinese table tennis

Here is the list that Liu Guoliang plans to apply:

  • Swap the Coaching staff between Women Team and Men Team. Women players need to deal with the pressure and the speed of the game. Liu Guoliang wants to improve the “physical, the speed and the aggressiveness” of the women players. This change is temporary but will help Ding Ning, Wang Manyu, Chen Meng, Zhu Yuling.
  • Special studies by the video for specific players: Hugo Calderano, Timo Boll, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Tomokazu Tomokazu, Mima Ito, Miu Hirano, etc.
  • Several closed-training as explained above
  • Previously, the Olympics lasts only for 7-8 days. But now, the competition duration is 14 days. Will the old-face like Ma Long, Xu Xin, Zhang Jike can maintain the physical performance?
Will Liu Guoliang's Head Coach position be reinstated
Will Liu Guoliang’s Head Coach position be reinstated

A discussion is going:

“Should the head coach position be restored? As this position is the main strength of Liu Guoliang. As he knows very well the strength and the weakness of each top player. His knowledge and experiences to investigate the opponent and the opponent’s strategy are also very important”.

In any way, Team China has better depth than all teams. Take out Fan Zhendong and Ma Long from China and the team will still be decent. But it’s now harder and harder to win the gold medal in a team event. That could be a good sign of the “development of table tennis in the World”. The level-gap is now closer and closer.

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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.

3 thoughts on “What is Liu Guoliang’s plan to save Chinese National Team”

  1. What happened ZJK? Haven’t seen him in a while. I thought he was making a comeback? Is he even still considered a CNT member?

  2. Bad for China, but good for TT as a global sport….

    Personal bias, I hope India can produce a couple of decent world class players, it will be good for the sport as India has a huge fan base to support the sport culture, and to move away from their cricket, cricket and more cricket focus sport.


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