(by Steve Hopkins)
Coverage from Vietnam – as we continue to try to provide current competitive table tennis for our community. This video comes from Phong Pham, an ITTF Level 2 coach in Vietnam. The video shows the 2020 Vietnam Women’s Singles Final from their National Championships which were held a week ago. The winner was Trang Hoang My Mai, who defeated Nga Thi Nguyen. The video below picks up the match at the switch in the seventh game.
This was the final piece of a full sweep by Mai – as she has already won the Women’s Team event, the Mixed Doubles event, and the Women’s Doubles event.
Phong Pham’s article on the Final:
2020 Vietnam Women’s National Table Tennis Championship: An incredible comeback paved by force of will and superb tactics
The story of the evening was the excellent performance and boldness of Hoang My Trang Mai and the superb tactics of coach Dang Vu. The night was incredibly emotional for Trang’s fans, including this author. Nga started out very sharp and strong, having a great day, successfully countering Trang’s 2-wing topspin style, with good placement and heavy spin. Nga was dominating the opponent by returning her serve to both corners with a heavy push, forcing her to initiate so she can counter attack on either side. These tactics initially worked really well for Nga, as Trang, 6 years older, gave the last of the energy she had, as this match was her 4th final match of the tournament. (She already won 3: Women’s team, mixed doubles, women’s doubles).
Trang did not appear to be in the best physical shape for her most important final. She missed many easy forehands that she normally would not miss even with closed eyes. At the end of game 4, Nga was dominating with the match score (3,11,6, 2), I was starting to see an upset of the biggest legend in the history of Vietnam women’s table tennis for Nga. However, Trang and coach Vu did not let that happen. Trang overcame the earlier difficulty and took the last 3 games (11, 2, 6) to win 4-3 overall, successfully defending the prestigious women’s singles title.
The most astounding strategy change of the match was when Trang and her coach decided to shift their gear to a different mode: proactive attack (game A) to counterattack and defense-counterattack (game B). This is a daring task because we have rarely seen Trang doing that. Yet, this was very effective and depicted the level of sophistication of Vu’s coaching. Accordingly, Trang stopped initiating the rallies,
and instead pushed to Nga’s backhand, even against Nga’s push serve return. Clearly, after Trang’s time-out, notable differences were obvious. Especially when Trang saved the opponent’s championship point upon the match score of 1-3: Trang served, Nga pushed to the left, Trang pushed back to the backhand which forced Nga to open… then Trang would take over by forehand counter-looping or backhand rolling Nga’s shots. Thanks to the excellent execution of the strategy, Trang overcame Nga’s over-performance to claim the title. When Nga started to pick up the pattern, Trang was back to initiate attacking again. She kept it back and forth leaving Nga so uncomfortable and confused in planning her game. This caused Nga to make a lot more mistakes than earlier games.
Initially the implementation of game B was stumpy when Trang was not used to the tactics, hesitating to switch from initiating the attack to allowing the opponent to attack first, setting up to counterattack. However, with determination and complete confidence in the tactics, Trang became increasingly decisive and effective. Her backhand roll and forehand short-swing counter-loop were really good which served powerful weapons to carry out the tactics, making the game inclined to Trang. When Trang pushed it to the left, it was clear that Trang wanted Nga to open it up first. Nga knew that. Many times, Nga has pushed the ball back, but Nga could not keep doing that forever because with the fire on both sides, Trang can pick and choose to finish the ball at any time. So after one or two pushes, Nga had to loop first, trapped in the game Trang set up which paved the road for Trang’s victory.
With a brilliant coach in the chair and the player’s talent and strong will: Trang made an epic comeback. Trang deserves the title after all the hard work and dedication she has paid for the HCM City table tennis organization .
Congratulations to both, Trang, coach Dang Vu.