Hao Shuai

Hao Shuai, the new left-handed topspin force from China, is placed fifteenth in the ITTF World Men’s rankings. In February 2007, he got the best ranking in his career at number 8. That was after he won the Croatian Open in Zagreb on January 21, 2007 at the age of 23. Earlier, in December 2006, Hao Shuai had won the ITTF Pro Tour Grand Finals doubles event, partnering Ma Long, when the pair beat Olympic champions Chen Qi and Ma Lin in a gripping 7-game final. Now, he is the new rising star in China and is part of the formidable Chinese front in table tennis, along with his illustrious compatriots, world number 1, Ma Lin, number 2, Wang Liqin, number 4, Wang Hao, number 7, Chen Qi, and number 8, Ma Long.

In the Croatian Open in January 2007, Hao Shuai was facing world number 6, Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, in the finals. Earlier, the top 4 Chinese male players had all existed in round 3 itself and he was the lone Chinese left. Samsonov had beaten Hao Shuai in the same Croatian Open in the previous year in the quarterfinals in a 6-game match. Hence, it was a sweet revenge for the young Chinese to turn the tables on Samsonov this time around.

Hao Shuai won the first 2 games 11-7 and 11-7. But the champion from Belarus came back strongly to take the next 2 games 12-10 and 11-9. Hao Shuai held his nerve and maintained his concentration to take the fifth game at 13-11. Again, in the sixth game, he maintained the attacking tempo to win the game 12-10. Hao Shuai had finally succeeded in getting his first singles title at the ITTF Pro Tour Men’s event.

At the start of his career, Hao Shuai had made life miserable for himself, when he was leading Michael Haze of Denmark by 3 games to nil and leading 9-5 in the fourth in the quarterfinals at the Volkswagen 48th World Table Tennis Championships in Shanghai, China, in May 2005. He had won the first 3 games easily at 11-5, 11-8, and 11-6. He started making mistakes, with victory so near at hand. He let the match slip away from him. The Dane reduced the arrears to 9-7 and then 10-9.

Serving for the match, the topspin forehand of Hao Shuai ended at the base of the net. Haze seized the opportunity and won the next 2 points to come back into the game. Maze kept his nerve and took the next 3 games. The Dane successfully countered the tactics of Hao Shuai in attacking the backhand of Maze. Finally, Michael Maze won the match 5-11, 8-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-9, and 11-6. It was a very sad moment for Hao Shuai, since he had prevailed over the Dane in their 2 previous encounters in 2003 at the Swedish Open and at the Danish Open. This defeat led to Hao Shuai being dropped from the Chinese team for the Asian Games in Doha. However, the recent form of Hao Shuai suggests that he is making a strong comeback and maturing.

Hao Shuai has been having a bad streak. In the latest Chinese Super League, Hao lost against opponents in all matches, losing a lot of points in the process. While in the Pro Tour Qatar Open, he did perform great, registering only a single loss against Boll of Germany, but winning all other matches against players like Wu Xing, Li Ching, Wang Zeng Yi and Lakeev Vasili.

Hao Shuai could not reach the final stage of the Qatar Open in Doha in February 2009 as he was defeated by Germany’s Timo Boll in the semi-final.

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