All you have to do is win the last point
May 6, 2020 7:32 PM   Subscribe

Fifteen years ago this week: the 'Best Table Tennis [match] comeback EVER'. Michael Maze(Denmark), ranked #19 in the world at the time comes back from the brink against Hao Shuai(China), #28. In a best-of-7 match in the quarterfinals at the 2005 World Championships in Shanghai, Hao has convincingly kicked Maze's butt the first 3 games, and the fourth game looks like he's got it sewed up. You can watch the whole match- it's pretty good, but let's start the video with Maze down 3 games to none, 5-9. Hao needs to only win 2 of the next 7 points to win the match.

Here Maze starts lobbing a lot. He's a world-class lobber, but it doesn't seem that this started out as an intentional strategy. Once it started working, though, he kept it up. Hao only gets one more point this game. On Hao's last match point, Maze falls down and returns a shot from the floor, which Hao fails to put it away. The match finally goes to Maze.

PingSkills devotes part of an episode to the match. Alois says it was about Hao not handling the pressure, and the difference in how the players differed in controlling their emotions.

But this is my favorite part of this story:
Later that day, in the next round, the first time Maze tries lobbing against Ma Lin, Ma does a drop shot. Check out the audience reaction shot at 3:13 following the point.
That's Hao Shuai watching from the stands, and Chen Xi saying, 'look, that's all you had to do!' At least Hao can laugh about it. Amazing bit of camerawork/directing.

Bonus: Some 7th game comebacks
posted by MtDewd (4 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Good stuff, I'm tailoring back my morning coffee intake and that was a good substitute!
posted by jeremias at 3:39 AM on May 7

The difference between competitive and amateur table tennis reminds me of the same in cycling. The level of skill professionals display seems improbable until you apply yourself to it for a month. I'm assuming Table Tennis is a professional sport?

Its great to see those exceptionally skilled still lose focus under pressure enough that a different response isn't obvious.
posted by bigZLiLk at 5:58 AM on May 7

Reminds me of this, the guy who played table tennis every day for a year, with the goal of going from being a rec player to top 250 in the UK.

Spoiler: He didn't make it. But he got a lot better. Fun 5-minute video of the year of practice.
posted by martin q blank at 10:05 AM on May 7

Though the thing I always find disappointing about video'ed matches (same for badminton) is the visually-shortened view of the table. It makes it a lot less exciting than live viewing.
posted by storybored at 11:47 AM on May 7

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