> Also, it's very likely that there would have been a Chinese champion in
> Men's Singles if Wang Liqin or Kong had defeated Schlager (Kong had a
> match point and Wang had a total of five match points) since the two of
> them, especially Kong, are very strong against choppers. So two areas
> where the Chinese men apparently need to improve are pressure situations
> in close matches (they seem to still be having trouble with 11 point
> games) and ability, particularly for their penholders, to defeat
> defenders. Both of these aspects are discussed in articles at Chung
> Lau's site: http://home.covad.net/~chunglau/ttindex.htm
Here's a relevant article about Wang Liqin:
Battling the inner demons
After his loss to Austrian Werner Schlager at the 47th World Table Tennis
Championships, Wang Liqin realizes it's his mental game that still needs
improving, as Zhou Zuyi reports.
Wang Liqin isn't a typical world champion. He's quiet, keeps a low
profile and is incredibly shy. Only several words into the conversation
finds Wang blushing. Although he represents one-half of the world's No 1
table tennis duo and is part of the reigning Olympic gold medalist team
in doubles play, Wang has always been uncomfortable talking about
"I've improved a lot through the years (on dealing with the press)," he
smiles softly, eyes looking at the ground. "Yet I still don't know how to
express myself properly."
This is characteristic of the native Shanghai athlete. Wang, born to an
ordinary family in the city's northern Zhabei District, behaves like
other 20-somethings on the street. But with a list of honors as long as
the Yangtze River, the 25-year-old is no ordinary citizen. His trophy
collections includes: a four-time winner of men's doubles in the
International Table Tennis Federation Year-end Grand Final, Olympic gold
medalist in men's doubles at Sydney 2000, the No 1 in men's singles at
the 2001 World Championships and dozens of professional tournament
"As an all-round player, Wang seems like a heaven-sent gift to the
Chinese table tennis team," says Shen Yimin, a sports instructor for
juniors, who introduced Wang to the sport 19 years ago.
Shen, now 62, was first impressed by Wang's size -- he was 10 centimeters
taller than the average 6-year-old. "Traditionally Chinese table tennis
instructors prefer short and quick boys," says Shen. "But I think we need
some big guys with stronger strikes. Wang was much taller than his
classmates in primary school and showed no signs of a slow mind. So I
decided to have a try on him."
Wang, now at 186 centimeters, is the tallest among China's national
players. His longer-than-average reach proves to be a nightmare to many
rivals. "Wang plays more like a European," says Shen, who coached Wang
for his first eight years in the game. "So far no one on the Chinese team
can match the strength of their arch rivals across the continent except
Wang, yet he also boasts exquisite skills compared with the overseas
players. The wonderful mixture makes him unique in the top echelon of the
Hmmmmm, sounds like Wang is invincible. Wrong. In some ways, Wang's
fragile personality is his own worst enemy during big matches. "I know I
was not mentally strong enough on court," he says. "I was not myself at
certain critical moments (during some matches) ... maybe that's somewhat
because of my quiet personality."
Though defending the title of men's doubles with his partner Yan Sen
doesn't appear to phase Wang, he succumbs to the greater pressure
inherent in singles play regularly. The national team even ruled him out
of the Olympic singles squad in 2000 simply because of his "unsteady in
At the recently concluded 47th World Table Tennis Championships, his
mental weakness cost him an opportunity to win back-to-back world
On May 24 at Bercy Stadium, Paris, where Wang battled with Austria's
Werner Schlager in the quarter-finals, the Austrian was down 2-3 in the
best-of-seven set match and Wang was only one step away from victory with
a 10-6 lead in the sixth set. "I had four match points, I wanted to play
safe and clean but Schlager showed his guts," Wang says.
An aggressive serve by Schlager was ensued with a rally during which one
of the strokes hit the edge of the table on Wang's side, breaking his
pace and costing him one match point. Schlager followed with a hard-hit
forehand winner. The Austrian's risk-taking strategy finally paid off:
Wang collapsed and Schlager advanced to the final and won the
championship by beating South Korean Joo Se Hyuk.
"I saw him bury his face in the towel weeping," says his doubles partner
Yan. "I can understand that. It's rather hard to face such a loss."
Coach Shen, however, sees deeper.
"Actually Wang Liqin beat himself, not the person on the other end of the
table," says Shen. "I know that his introverted personality has something
to do with this stumble. But too much criticism will not help. Wang is a
perfectionist whose focus on every single point adds extra pressure. He
needs to adjust that attitude himself."
Unlike his national team peers with strong table tennis backgrounds, such
as Kong Linghui and Liu Guoliang, whose fathers are both prominent table
tennis coaches, Wang seemingly came from nowhere.
Wang's parents were truck drivers at a local factory and sent their son
to play the sport at a young age to improve his fitness. "You can find
the same character traits in each family member," says Shen. "They're
amiable, simple-hearted and introverted. "It's comfortable to come to
terms with these people off-court, but when it comes to competitive
sport, you need something more."
Wang is clearly aware of his weakness. He's trying to communicate more
with coaches as a way to adjust his approach to the game. Attentive
spectators may notice more roars from the quiet guy at future
tournaments. "I just strive to alleviate the pressure (of the game) one
way or another," Wang says.
His current coach of the national team, Shi Zhihao, a multiple world
champion himself and a Shanghai native as well, is apparently happy with
the change. "To players like Wang Liqin, the coach should be more like a
friend and give him more freedom," Shi says. "From a technical point of
view, Wang is almost perfect. But he needs to sharpen his mental game."
Wang entered the national team in 1993 and two years later won his first
champion at the U-17 championships. His career peaked at the 2001 World
Championships in Osaka, Japan, where he achieved an epic come-from-behind
victory against Kong Linghui in the final, claiming his first world
championship title in singles play.
"I fought back from a 0-2 deficit and finally beat him," he recalls, his
eyes glittering. "I'd like a repeat, not of that match, but of the
strength inside myself at that very moment."
Surely it won't take long. The 48th World Table Tennis Championships, to
be held in Shanghai, is only two years away. One of Shanghai's favorite
sons may well turn in a performance that satisfies a nation, but most of
all satisfies himself. Away from table tennis, Wang Liqin is introverted
and shy. -- Wang Rongjiang
Wang strives to return the ball during a competition. He is currently
ranked No 5 in the ITTF men's singles category after his loss in the
quarter-final to Austrian Werner Schlager, who is now ranked the top
player, at the 47th World Table Tennis Championships in Paris last month.
-- Xu Jiajun
Wang plays football against the Shanghai women's soccer team during
national table tennis team training in Shanghai this month. Wang scored
six goals in the game. -- Guo Yijiang