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INTERVIEW WITH MA LIN

November 8, 2000

(Chung's Notes: This interview took place on October 15, the day Ma Lin won the World Cup. The sentences inside [ ] are the reporter's comments made after the interview.)

This afternoon, Ma Lin won the World Cup title in Yangzhou, beating Kim Taek Soo 3-0. After the last point, Ma knelt down and was in tears. Not being selected to represent China at the Olympics was a severe blow to Ma, but the 20-year-old has survived. Tonight, we held an exclusive interview with Ma.

Reporter: Very few thought that you would beat Kim so cleanly.

Ma: I did not think so, too. I was prepared to play the full 5 games. Before this match, I lost three times in a row to Kim. In the past, by the time we played the 5th game, Kim would have adjusted to my serves and my attacks. That's why I don't like playing the 5th game against him, and I tried to win in 3. I got my wishes today. [R: Looking at the match, we did not see any worry or anxiety on Ma's face. He played with a great deal of patience. This level of maturity is very rare in young players, and that makes Ma so special.]

R: The scores in your semi-final match against Wang Liqin were also a little surprising.

M: Some people said that Wang dumped that match to me, because of the scores. How could that be? Like myself, Wang had never won a world title; this is a great opportunity to him also. Before the match I thought that it would be the most difficult for me. But Wang did not play all that well, and I was able to use all my techniques. I really played quite well. I added some variations to my serves, and Wang did not handle them well. [R: You only have to see how Wang stomped his feet in disgust after his mistakes to know that he did not dump the match.]

R: Although you practiced with the big ball more than other players did, you are still not fully adjusted to it yet, right?

M: Realisticaly, I am at about the 60%-70% level (in terms of understand the big ball). Before the tournament I had the confidence to win, but I did not expect to play at such a high level: I only lost one game to Persson in the tournament. About the big ball, I think one has to first get used to its speed and spin, and consciously remind oneself that one has to play differently. Based on that foundation, one has to strengthen one's technical forte. With the big ball, the changes in my game principally show up on my backhand. Because the ball is slower, I can be more deliberate in using my backhand loops. With the small ball, I was a little nervous about using the backhand loop, and if I missed a few times, I was afraid to use that shot. Now my percentage is much higher, and I use it two or three times in a game. Not only am I more confident, my opponent also feels more pressure. When you play good players, two or three points is the difference. [R: From Ma's experience, the inverted backhand loop has more applicability in the big ball era. This is a good opportunity for Liu Guoliang and Yan Sen, because it strengthens the backhand.]

R: The last couple of days you have been coughing. Are you feeling well? Did it affect your play?

M: I had a cold before I left Beijing, and it is not over yet. I have been coughing since I came to Yangzhou. The big ball is slower, and it requires more energy to attack. Also, there are more extended rallies, so I felt that physically I was a little questionable. I sweated a lot in the matches, and I felt very tired afterwards. [We have not heard Ma mention his physical condition in the press meetings, but he was always coughing in those meetings.]

R: You cried after the finals. Tell us how you really felt.

M: That was a really complex feeling, and hard to explain. I felt it was very tough for me during those days when we prepared for the Olympics and I was not on the team. I don't know how I made it through. Especially on the day the team left for Sydney, when I saw that they were so happy and excited, and I had to continue training with those who were not going. That feeling was very hard to describe. When I won the tornament today, I felt that life has been fair to me. [R: For someone prepared to go to the Olympics, not being selected was like being hit with cold rain that could put the fire out in one's life. This World Cup title is the lightest one of the grand slam titles, but Ma still cried. Through this title, he has proved that he passed the test. After the storm he can now see the rainbow. He is stronger and more mature.]

Copyright Chung Lau

 

Last Update : 06 November, 2002

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