The defensive art, the favoured formula for Barbora Balazova and Hana Matelova
Effective when a defensive player was a member of the opposition, it was the very same when two players of the backspin art where the adversaries.
In the opening round of the Women’s Doubles event at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open in Doha, the partnership formed by the Slovak Republic’s Barbora Balazova and the Czech Republic’s Hana Matelova had caused an upset of note. They overcame Germany’s Han Ying and Shan Xiaona, the no.8 seeds (11-5, 11-8, 12-10).
Shan Xiaona is an attacking player but Han Ying is one of most stylish and technically correct defensive players on planet earth.
One round later, Barbora Balazova and Hana Matelova faced Li Jie of the Netherlands and Poland’s Li Qian, the no.3 seeds and bronze medallists at the Qoros 2017 World Championships in Suzhou.
Once again, just as in the first round, they caused an upset; they emerged successful but one wondered, having won the first two games, had they spurned their chances when losing the third game. They led 9-6 and held match point at 10-9.
Would it prove a dagger to the heart? Not at all; they won the first six points of the fourth game before Li Jie and Li Qian mounted a recovery. At 7-4 Barbora Balazova and Hana Matelova elected for “Time Out”; to describe the move as wise and fruitful is a gross understatement. They won the next four points, hugged each other and leapt for joy in sheer delight; a four games win (11-5, 11-9, 11-13, 11-4) and a place in the semi-finals was secured.
“The vital part of the match was the second game; we were down 8-4 and came back to win; before the match we watch a video of them playing, so we knew we had to be patient. We knew it was top spin and push, if after the topspin we received a high ball then attack but it was vital we did not rush; I think in the fourth game I just played better than in the first three, I was able to read the spin. Also I moved well, I was able to topspin when they played wide”, Barbora Balazova
“I must admit that in third game I was nervous but I managed to keep calm”, Hana Matelova.
One upset in the remaining quarter-final contests, matters went as anticipated but for the top two rated pairs, there were close calls.
Korea’s Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun, the top seeds, needed the full five games to beat Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu and Cheng I-Ching, the no.5 seeds (10-12, 11-5, 10-12, 11-3, 11-9. Likewise, Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem and Lee Ho Ching secured their semi-final place in a similar fashion; they beat Japan’s Miu Hirano and Kasumi Ishikawa (11-6, 7-11, 12-10, 11-13, 11-6).
Meanwhile, in the one remaining of last eight Women’s Doubles contest, it was success for China Chen Meng and Wang Manyu in the battle of the qualifiers; they overcame Austria’s Sofia Polcanova and Amelie Solja in three straight games (11-2, 11-7, 11-5).
At the semi-final stage Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun meet Barbora Balazova and Hanna Matelova; in the opposite half of the draw it is Doo Hoi Kem and Lee Ho Ching against Chen Meng and Wang Manyu.