After seven days of competition, the 2012 World Team Championships Men Division was on its final hurdle between the strongest teams in the world - China and Germany. Throughout the competition, China has maintained a powerful 3-0 victory. However today, against the host country, China was surely under tremendous amount of pressure.
Timo Boll 2-3 Zhang Jike
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First to serve was Zhang Jike and earned the first two points in the match. Against the top German player Timo Boll, Zhang Jike lost his advantage as both players leveled in 4-4. At this point, the match got intense with Timo Boll having the control and Zhang Jike closely following from behind. After the tie in 7-7, Zhang Jike was in 9-7 lead and had the advantage of his two serves. However, Timo Boll took those advantages to his favor and tied in 9-9. Zhang Jike's backhand earned him the set point but Timo Boll leveled once again in 10-10. With the advantage of his two serves, Zhang Jike sealed the set with 12-10.
A tie in 1-1 ushered the second set. After being warmed up, Zhang Jike posted his lead in 5-2. With Timo Boll's turn to serve, Zhang Jike increased his advantage further to 7-3. At this point, Zhang Jike gained his momentum with his serve advantage in 9-3. Meanwhile, Timo Boll didn't have the right answers to the attacks of the Chinese player and was down in 3-10. Despite Boll's sign of recovery in three straight points, Zhang Jike won in an exchange of topspins with 11-6.
After losing the first two sets, Timo Boll was expected to do what he has to do and that is to finally break the momentum of the Chinese opponent. Indeed, Timo Boll was in a 3-1 advantage. Despite efforts from Zhang Jike, Timo Boll was able to increase his lead further to 7-4 through his brilliant serves. However, Zhang Jike made his presence felt as he managed to level in 7-7. This time, the Chinese took the control and overtook to 9-7. This led German to call for a timeout. Due to some misunderstanding in the previous serve, Zhang Jike lost one point in 8-7. After the game resumed, Timo Boll leveled in 8-8 then overtook to set point in 10-8. This time, Zhang Jike wasn't able to catch up. Timo Boll got the set with 11-9.
With no more timeouts for the German camp, Zhang Jike returned into the fourth set with 3-0. But Timo Boll was not letting go of the match and leveled in 5-5. After the tie, Zhang Jike wasn't able to use his two-serve advantage and Timo Boll led to 7-5. The German got his momentum now and was in 10-6. Just as Timo Boll thought of sealing the set easily, Zhang Jike leveled in 10-10. Despite Zhang Jike's efforts, Timo Boll remained compose and recovered in 12-10.
Eventually, the match reached the deciding set where Zhang Jike nailed the first six points. With the two-serve advantage, Timo Boll was able to score in the set in 2-6. This led China to call for a timeout, After the game resumed, Timo Boll scored another point. However, the succeeding points went to Zhang Jike with match point 10-5. Timo Boll saved one point before Zhang Jike sealed the match with 11-6.
Dimitrij Ovtcharov 0-3 Ma Long
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First to serve in the second match was Dimitrij Ovtcharov and earned the first blood. However against Ma Long, Ovtcharov had a hard time establishing himself. Ma Long was overpowering and won in 11-3.
A fantastic rally ushered the second match with Ovtcharov winning the first two points. This time, Ovtcharov had the control over the table. He knew what he was doing and had the right techniques against the Chinese with 6-2. Meanwhile, Ma Long lost his focus and was the person who doesn't have the answers to the attacks to him. He was down in 3-8. However, as the set progressed, tides turned to the different direction. Ma Long narrowed in 7-9. This led Germany to call for a timeout. After the game resumed, Ovtcharov wasn't able to keep up with his advantage and tied in 9-9. After the tie, Ma Long got set point advantage in 10-8. Ovtcharov saved one more point before Ma Long sealed his 2-0 advantage with 11-9.
After losing the previous sets, Dimtrij Ovtcharov came strong in the third set and leveled in 5-5. With a fault serve from the Chinese player, Ovtcharov got a bonus point to 6-5. However, after such violation, Ma Long quickly recovered the lost point and earned three more to 9-6. Eventually, Ma Long got match point advantage in 10-7. However, Ovtcharov did not easily let go of the match and came near to 9-10, forcing the Chinese Team to call for their timeout. After the game resumed, with the serve advantage from Ma Long, Ovtcharov sealed the gap with a calm attack to 10-10. After the tie, Ovtcharov overtook to his first set point in 11-10. When Ma Long did not let go and leveled in 11-11, Ma Long 13-11
Patrick Baum 1-3 Wang Hao
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First blood for the third match went to the Chinese player, Wang Hao. However, it was the German player, Patrick Baum who obviously had the control in 4-1. On the other hand, Wang Hao was working his way into the match and successfully leveled in 5-5. Despite this, Patrick Baum was in good condition and was able to survive in the rallies of topspins to 8-6. Eventually, Patrick Baum got set point in 10-7 then sealed it with 11-8.
Patrick Baum returned into the second set still very aggressive and gave Wang Hao quite a hard time. However after the tie in 4-4, Patrick Baum wasn't able to stop his opponent and was down in 5-10. Without any chance given, Wang Hao sealed his point in 11-5.
Wang Hao returned into the third set with the momentum and was in 8-4 advantage. For the second time in match, Wang Hao reached set point in 10-5 then sealed it with another 11-5. At this point, Patrick Baum was in deep trouble as China was one set away to the final victory.
With the advantage, Wang Hao was able to seal a decent lead in 5-2. This led Germany to call for a timeout. After the game resumed, Patrick Baum cut the series of points but the next two points went to Wang Hao. After Patrick Baum cored one more point, China called for their timeout. When Wang Hao returned with his serve advantage, Patrick Baum came closer to 6-7 then sealed the gap in 7-7. At this critical point, Patrick Baum earned himself some confidence and overtook to 10-9. Despite that, as the more experienced player, Wang Hao remained mentally strong and had championship point in 11-10 and sealed the victory in 12-10.
Eventually, China, with Zhang Jike, Ma Long and Wang Hao, successfully overcame the hosts from Germany and defended the Swaythling Cup in the 2012 World Team Championships in Dortmund! Congratulations to China and good job to Germany!
Photo source: Official Facebook page of the ITTF