Michael Maze Announces Retirement, Injuries Force End to International Career
Courtesy of ITTF
Crowned European champion in Stuttgart in 2009, having won the Cadet Boys’ Singles title at the European Youth Championships in 1996 in Frydek-Mistek and then two years later, securing the Junior Boys’ Singles crown in the same Czech Republic town, Denmark’s Michael Maze has announced his retirement from international competition.
Recurring injuries are the reason the 34 year old has been required to make the regretful decision.
Time has Come
“The time has come”, said Michael Maze when speaking to Arne Madsen, the Chair of the ITTF Media Committee and a compatriot of Michael Maze.
“I have made the most difficult decision of my career”, added Michael Maze. “My time as a top table tennis player has come to an end!”
Unquestionably it has been an agonizing decision for the Dane.
“In consultation with my doctors and management we came to this very difficult decision”, explained Michael Maze. “I had hoped to compete at this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio but my body just can’t take it anymore; after several operations I can no longer train one hundred per cent without pain and therefore not compete at the level I’m used to.”
Liebherr 2015 European Championships
Michael Maze always set himself high standards. Notably, at last year’s Liebherr 2015 European Championships in Ekaterinburg, he was well below his best; had consistent injury dampened the appetite for the battle?
It was a smiling Michael Maze who departed the arena having failed to advance beyond the group qualification stage of proceedings; he appeared resigned to defeat, aware the restricted preparation had not been sufficient to produce the level required to succeed.
If he could not play at the level of which he knew he was capable, the motivation had waned.
Thankful for Support
“I want to thank especially my family, friends and my sponsors Freklame A/S, Butterfly and NaturEnergi, as well as my fans from the bottom of my heart; I’m forever grateful for all the support given throughout my whole career”, concluded Michael. “There are so many great experiences and memories to take with me from this amazing sport.”
European champion, bronze medal list with Finn Tugwell in the Men’s Doubles event at Athens 2004 Olympic Games, in the same year the Men’s Singles winner on the ITTF World Tour in his native Denmark; Michael Maze has a host of accolades to his name.
One Match Above All Others
However, whatever the roll of honor may read; he will be remembered most of all for one match and perhaps for one point above all others.
At the Volkswagen 48th World Championships staged in 2005 in Shanghai, he had caused a major upset in the fourth round of proceedings by beating the host nation’s Wang Hao in four straight games; he had retreated from the table and by executing high top spin lobbed returns forced errors from the Chinese star.
Faced Incredible Odds
In the next round, the quarterfinals, on Thursday May 5th, he faced a relative newcomer to the Chinese National Team, he confronted Hao Shuai.
The odds were stacked against Michael Maze; he had played Hao Shuai on two previous occasions; both in 2003, on the ITTF World Tour in Denmark and in Sweden. He had lost each encounter.
Enjoy magic moments from the career of Michael Maze
Career Changing Point
It seemed he was odds on to lose a fourth when, having lost the first three games, he trailed 7-9 in the fourth and served into the net. Hao Shuai held three match points.
Employing the tactics that had engineered the downfall of Wang Hao, Michael Maze saved two match points but the end seemed nigh as with the score at 10-9. Once again Michael Maze was pinned to the court surrounds but the return from Hao Shuai was somewhat shorter than the previous attacks.
The only way for Michael Maze to return the ball was to lean forward, fall on his knees and scrape a return. Hao Shuai panicked, an attempted forehand smash, flew high and wide.
Three match points had been saved, Michael Maze progressed to win the game and the next three to secure the match; that one point blighted the career of Hao Shuai; it gave Michael Maze legendary status.
Ma Lin ended adventures in the next round but in Shanghai, Michael Maze had demonstrated his incredible talent; a word that is somewhat difficult to define but in the case of Denmark’s greatest ever player, is summed up by Peter Sartz, for many years the coach sitting courtside.
“You could see Michael improving during each coaching session”, he said.
Simply the student learned so quickly, he responded quickly, even Michael Maze does not know how he won the point when down on his knees in Shanghai, the reaction was innate.
It is the ability to respond, to learn quickly, to improvise; it is the talent of Michael Maze; thanks for the memories.
The ITTF Legends Tour
See you in six years’ time on the ITTF Legends Tour?
I look forward to that date.