Xu Xin – Muramatsu: mastering the defenders

Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals have offered us the chance to enjoy an amazing tournament. A reveling fact is that 9 out of the 10 top ranked players in the world have competed for the crown of the best circuit player of the year, with only the major withdrawal of Zhang Jike.

One of the biggest upsets took place in the very first day, when the young Japanese defender Yuto Muramatsu defeated the 40 year-old veteran Vladimir Samsonov to book his slot into the quarter finals. Not a promising future for him at that moment though, as China’s Xu Xin waited for him to fight for a semifinals spot.

Let’s see now how the match developed.

The match

All top defenders like Joo Saehyuk or Chen Weixing had suffered Muramatsu’s fate in the past, and the star from the land of the rising sun was not an exception. Xu Xin developed a devastating gameplay against his opponent to record a 4-0 (11-2, 11-6, 11-5, 11-4) in less than 20 minutes.

Some stats about the match:

match_stats.png

The most remarkable thing of the match are the long winning streaks that the Chinese player achieved:

  • 1st set:   from 0-0 to 10-0, 10 points in a row
  • 2nd set: from 3-6 to 11-6, 8 points in a row
  • 3rd set:  from 2-4 to 10-4, 8 points in a row
  • 4th set:  from 0-0 to 5-0, 5 points in a row

What makes it so easy for Xu Xin to master defenders? How is it possible for him to have such a consistency?

Xu Xin against defenders

Defender players have a strong consistency. They are used to long rallies, where they usually chop the ball far from the table. Yuto Muramatsu has quite a classic defender style: he chops the ball on both his backhand and forehand, although he sometimes performs attacks on drop shots and lobs low balls far from the table using the forehand.

That last aspect of Muramatsu’s style is what makes defenders disruptive, as it forces the attacker not to return easy high balls that could be topspinned. However, nothing really works against Xu Xin. How does the Chinese player fight defenders consistency and surprising shots?

Analyzing how Xu Xin won the 44 points that account for his victory, we have:

19 chopping mistakes by Muramatsu

More than half of Xu Xin won points come from Muramatsu’s mistakes chopping far from the table. 14 backhand and 5 forehand failed shots. The reason behind is easy to notice after watching next video:

Xu Xin’s consistency and variation of spin make it very difficult for the japanese defender to chop. First ball is usually slow and very spinny. However, he sometimes performs quick and strong topspins that do not let Muramatsu position properly and therefore fails to return them. Even when Muramatsu is positioned properly, spinny balls produce quite high chops which sometimes do not hit the table or allow the chinese player to easily finish the point.

10 forehand topspin winners by Xu Xin

As explained in the previous section, forehand topspin winners are usually present in Xu Xin’s games against defenders. His topspin is so spinny that chopped balls do not put him in trouble. His technique is quite unique in this sense, as he has a very long movement since he starts the forehand until he hits the ball, generating a terrible acceleration and consequently more spin than usual. Following video shows these facts:

9 topspin mistakes by Muramatsu

Because of a lack of control in the game development, Muramatsu tried several ways to disrupt the Chinese player. Attacking and counter-attacking did not serve him well though. Let’s see a couple of examples:

6 different kind of mistakes by Muramatsu

2 unreturned serves, 2 serve faults, 1 failed lob and 1 drop shot account for the rest of the points won by Xu Xin.

So easy… isn’t it?

Xu Xin is undoubtedly one of the best players in the world. This fact can make people think that it is impossible to achieve such a level against defenders. Probably, it is. However, some tips can lead us to improve our performance dramatically:

  • Use as much spin variation as possible: this will prevent the defender getting used to your attacking shots and will put him in trouble when chopping.
  • Do not usually take big risk when attacking, try to reduce your failure rate.
  • Try to hit fast third balls that make the defender impossible to position accordingly to chop far enough from the table.
  • Adapt your forehand topspin technique to hit the ball with more acceleration if needed

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