Chinese paddler Zhang Jike proves a point
Chinese world No. 4 puts cocky Jang in his place after two previous losses to the South Korean
REPORTING FROM SHAH ALAM
Rivalries in sport can be brutal at times.
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali once said: "I'm a fighter. I believe in the eye-for-an-eye business. I'm no cheek turner. I got no respect for a man who won't hit back.
"You kill my dog, you better hide your cat."
China's Zhang Jike may not have killed a cat yesterday, but the reigning Olympic men's singles champion got his revenge against South Korea's Jang Woo Jin in China's 3-0 semi-final win at the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Shah Alam.
Before yesterday's tie, Zhang, 28, had a 0-2 record against the 21-year-old South Korean, with both losses happening at the Asian Championships in Pattaya last year.
In that competition, Jang first shocked Zhang 3-2 in a team tie between China and South Korea, before the young upstart upset the former world No. 1 4-2 just days later in the men's singles competition.
To add insult to injury, Jang reportedly made a provocative gesture at the Chinese player after the latter match last year, and Chinese head coach Liu Guoliang had to restrain Zhang from confronting the South Korean.
Before yesterday's tie, Jang was quoted as saying that he is confident of beating Zhang again.
And the Chinese world No. 4 made the South Korean eat his words, outclassing him 3-1 (7-11, 11-4, 11-9, 12-10) in the third singles to score the winning point for China in the semi-final tie.
After the match, Zhang said of his opponent: "Actually, he is not all that great, or capable at all. I didn't know anything about him at the Asian Championships, so I didn't prepare well (and lost twice to him).
"I have been training intensively recently, so I was prepared and ready today."
South Korea chose not to field veteran Joo Sae Hyuk yesterday, and played Lee Sang Su and Jung Young Sik in the first two singles matches instead before Jang took to the court.
Lee lost 3-1 (8-11, 11-2, 11-7, 11-5) to Xu Xin in the first match, while Jung was whitewashed 3-0 (11-7, 11-5, 11-8) by world No. 1 Ma Long in the second match.
On Joo's absence, Chinese head coach Liu Guoliang said: "The line-up was as we predicted.
"We thought they would definitely have fielded Jang against Zhang, although I thought he got into the Korean line-up yesterday by virtue of his two wins against Zhang last year.
"We also wanted to put Zhang in the third singles, and pit him against Jang."
China will meet Japan in the final today, after the latter beat England 3-1 in the other men's semi-final yesterday.
Meanwhile, the Chinese women's team are also through to the final today after beating Taiwan 3-0 in the semi-finals yesterday.
Ding Ning, Li Xiaoxia and Zhu Yuling all won their respective matches against Chen Szu-yu, Cheng I-Ching and Cheng Hsien-tzu without dropping a single game, and will meet Japan in the final today.
England celebrate first men's medal at team worlds since 1955
They were just promoted to the Championship division this year, and were only aiming to remain in the top flight of the World Team Table Tennis Championships in Shah Alam.
But the English men's team - comprising Paul Drinkhall, Liam Pitchford and Samuel Walker - have defied all odds and reached the semi-finals, where they lost 3-1 to Japan last night.
By virtue of reaching the last four, England - the birthplace of the sport - have secured a joint-bronze with South Korea.
It is the country's first medal at the world team championships since the women's team secured a bronze in 1965.
The English men's team were the world champions in 1953, and last won a medal in the 1955 edition.
But their fairy-tale run ended last night - Jun Mizutani gave Japan the lead with a 3-0 (11-8, 11-9, 11-4) win over Drinkhall, before Maharu Yoshimura doubled the lead with a 3-2 (11-5, 12-14, 11-7, 10-12, 11-9) victory over Pitchford.
Walker gave the English a lifeline when he beat Yuya Oshima 3-1 (11-6, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9) in the third match, and the tie looked to be heading for the rubber match when Pitchford was 11-8, 12-10, 7-11, 10-7 up in the fourth against Mizutani.
But the Japanese world No. 7 scored five straight points to win that game 12-10, and the rubber 11-6 to give Japan the win, and a place against China in the final today.
World No. 64 Pitchford said: "Our dream was to get through the group, and then we had quite a good second-round draw.
"We had really good team spirit and played for each other, and got through the last two rounds but, unfortunately, we couldn't get over the finish line today.
"We never thought we could win a medal, and to get it was amazing."
The team were put together before the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014, where they finished second behind Singapore.
Pitchford - who resembles Stoke City footballer Peter Crouch - believes the results in Malaysia will boost their confidence ahead of the European Olympic qualifiers in Istanbul next month, and hope to even play in the team event at the Rio Olympics in August.
He said: "We all played really well here and will pick up ranking points, maybe we can even get to play in the team (event) in Rio."