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 June 4, 2003

At the Paris Worlds, the only title the Chinese did not win is the Men's Singles title, the one with the most weight. After the national team came back, it held a three and a half day meeting to summarize the Worlds. The players first presented individual reports, and the coaches would then provide critiques for each player. Afterwards the coaches held a meeting and analyzed the pre-Worlds preparation, the training, and the actual competition. Every aspect was studied thoroughly. Our reporter interviewed the men's coaching team leader, Yin Xiao, after that series of meetings. Yin said that the biggest reason for losing the MS title was mental problems.

"We all know that the Men's Singles event is the toughest. Our team garnered 4 of the top 8 places, and that shows the our strength. We were in good shape, but in the critical matches, and at the critical points, our players had too much pressure. They played too conservatively, and some of the techniques and changes of tactics they learned were never used. That led to match losses. Typical of this is the Wang Liqin-Schlager match. From a technical level perspective, Schlager is not better than Wang. Wang was ahead in the first 6 games, but when leading 10-6 in game 6, he developed some problems mentally. Overall in the men's singles competition, the Chinese players most often lost in game 7. This shows that the execution at critical points was lacking.

"The 11-point scoring increases the randomness of the results. When two players close in level meet, it is often the mental factors that are the main determinants of results. The key points are won by whoever attacks first, whoever changes tactics first and whoever is the more aggressive. The Chinese players are not good enough in this respect.

"Last year at the Asian Games our men's team basically accomplished its goals, but our overall edge has decreased. Since then our team has been analyzing and studying the principles of the new rules, and formulated a new set of training methods. The Worlds showed that basically the training was effective. The reason why we lost the MS title was that we were focusing on techniques and tactics, and we did not work on mental training sufficiently. In the 21-point days, we had always emphasized a steady mental state and perseverance. Now, with the 11-point system in effect, we need to emphasize more the readiness to take risks and how to play with spirits. These are lacking in our training to date," Yin said.

On the match-up of Schalger versus Joo Se Hyuk, Yin feels that some element of luck was responsible for those two players meeting in the finals.

"They are not the strongest players in the world. On the other hand, there is some objective reason for them to make the finals. Schalger's serves and 3rd-ball attacks are at the same level as the Chinese, and he plays aggressively. In 11-point games, he can often seize the advantage. Wang Hao and Ma Lin lost to two choppers because firstly they did not have an upper hand against choppers in the past, and secondly because their techniques are not sufficiently all-round. An all-round superior player should be able to play against all styles. This also shows that there is life in the chopping style, Especially Joo' style, which is based on Ding Song's specialties and is further developed from that foundation. It strikes a balance between defense and offense, and the spins and placements are very tightly controlled. Not only is the offense mixed into the defense, but the ability to continuously attack is very strong in Joo's style." Yin said. He also admitted that in the last two years, his team has not paid enough attention to the chopping style.

Overall, Yin is satisfied with the performance of the young players, especially with Qiu Yike's win over Boll, which was a major blow to the Europeans. "Also, Qiu was able to stay level-headed after that big win, and played the next two matches well; that is not easy. Wang Hao, who had high hopes, was playing his first Worlds. Even though he lost in singles, he was the runner-up in men's doubles, as well as finishing third in mixed doubles. We can say they he performed his duties well, and it also shows that our incoming young players have reached a certain level. But we can also see that in big tournaments, they lack experience and there are still mental problems. For example, Wang Hao commited some errors. If his mental state was good, and his will strong, those errors were avoidable.

"Looking forward to the Olympics and the Worlds Team Competition, the failures in men's singles have sounded an alarm for the team. We can tell that competition will be even more fierce from now on. The team has to stay with the set of training methods that were developed since the Asian Games, and at the same time, increase the mental training. We did not have a special set of mental training methods for the 11-point games, and now we know we need it. Under the provision that we continue to stay at a high technical level, our mental strength is the key to recapturing our previous position," Yin said.

Copyright Chung Lau


Last Update : 09 November, 2003

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