Stay Focused, Lapse in Concentration Almost Results in Dire Consequences
2016 ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open
Courtesy of ITTF
A lapse in focus, a lapse for a split second, at high international level it can cost you dearly, a loss of concentration and other gremlins enter the mind; it almost cost Germany’s Shan Xiaona, the no.12 seed in the Women’s Singles event at the 2016 Kuwait Open dearly.
In the opening round of proceedings on the afternoon of Friday March 18th, she won the first three games against Japan’s effervescent Sakura Mori before making life interesting and somewhat tense for her coach, Jie Schöpp, sitting courtside.
At the end of the contest, it was rather more a sigh of relief than exuberant joy when Shan Xiaona secured the final point to secure a seven games win (11-7, 11-7, 11-4, 12-14, 7-11, 9-11, 11-7).
“I won the first three games; then in the fourth I led 7-4, I felt really safe”, said Shan Xiaona. “However, that was the problem, I was just playing safe, not taking the initiative; I was not playing at one hundred per cent, I’d stopped thinking.”
Momentarily, Shan Xiaona, although perhaps not realizing at the time, had switched off; there had been a lapse in concentration.
Sakura Mori Grew in Confidence
Sakura Mori, to her great credit, never stopped fighting, she progressed to win the game; the success a massive psychological boost.
The level of her play rose; especially her execution of backhand top spin strokes was a lesson in technical excellence.
“I became nervous, in the first three games she had made mistakes; she played better and better, hardly any errors”, added Shan Xiaona who eventually brought mind, body and soul together to win the match; her pen-hold style prevailing.
“My style is old fashioned”, admitted Shan Xiaona. “Short pimples, I only use one side of the racket; I’ve never tried to top spin from the reverse side of the racket.”
It is a style no longer propounded amongst the coaching fraternity, for Shan Xiaona against Sakura Mori the style proved successful; more importantly, the concentration was back in total focus for the vital seventh game.
Six Games Duels
Testing times for Shan Xiaona; there were also some exacting moments for her compatriot and doubles partner, Petrissa Solja, the no.13 seed.
She needed six games to beat Russia’s Yulia Prokhorova (11-7, 11-7, 9-11, 8-11, 11-3, 11-4), as did China’s Zhu Yuling, the no.3 seed, when facing Hong Kong’s highly impressive Minnie Soo Wai Yam (9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-6, 4-11, 11-6).
Defeat for Minnie Soo Wai Yan but the performance underlined the fact of the level at which the 18 year old is capable of playing.
Ai Fukuhara, Cheng I-Ching
Success for Zhu Yuling as matters advanced on the afternoon of the third day of play; there were also successes for Japan’s Ai Fukuhara, the no.4 seed and Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, the no.14 seed.
Ai Fukuhara beat Thailand’s impressive Suthasini Sawettabut (11-6, 9-11, 11-2, 11-9, 11-7); Cheng I-Ching eventually overcame Miyu Kato, like Ai Fukuhara from Japan, in a contest that experienced a memorable fourth game (8-11, 11-9, 12-10, 23-21, 11-6) that swayed matters in favor of Chinese Taipei.