The 2013 Men’s World Cup concluded on Sunday, and it’s left me feeling confused. Specifically, a bizarre format meant that more than once did two players meet in both the group stage and the quarter finals, the first round of the knockout draw. This was the case for Timo Boll and Marcos Freitas, and for Chuang Chih-Yuan and Vladimir Samsonov.
Usually, in table tennis and other sports, in tournaments where more than one player advances from a group stage, players that advance from the same group are put in separate halves of the knockout draw, so that the only chance they have to meet again is if they both make the final. To my mind, this is the way it should be, so that the 2nd place finisher in a group has the chance to play and beat other players before playing their ‘nemesis’ again. In this way, it builds drama, not to mention giving viewers variety.
But in a baffling move, the ITTF draw makers turned their back on a good system, meaning that the aforementioned players had to meet twice, and I think it may even have changed the outcome of the tournament. In Boll’s case, he beat Freitas 4-0 in both the group stage and the quarter final, so he definitely asserted himself as the better player. But in the other matchup, Chuang beat Samsonov in the group stage, but Samsonov won the second instalment (on the same day no less!) and knocked Chuang out of the tournament. If I were Chuang, I would definitely be looking for some answers.
Part of the drama of tournament sport is the sacredness of the result. The winner of any match can definitively say that they were the better player, if only for that one moment of time. In this tournament, the ITTF stole that sacredness from the affected players. If two players have to play twice, and the result is different the second time, not even the winner of the second encounter can say they were truly better. Fatigue, for example, becomes a factor, one which should not enter the equation. “I was better, once I had a practice run,” is essentially the limit of what the most recent victor can truthfully claim.
The Women’s World Cup last month was also affected in the same way, with Singapore’s Yu Mengyu having to play China’s Liu Shiwen in both the group stage and quarter-final also.
So, ITTF, please learn from your mistakes for next years instalment. It is one of table tennis' three major tournaments after all.
Thanks in advance,
Table Tennis Fans Of The World