Some Impressions of the Chinese19 December, 2017
By mid-January the European season is approaching its climax to the bigger events of March, and thus thoughts are usually much devoted to the prospects thereof, but 1973 has witnessed a change in this attitude as all thoughts have been given over to the three weeks tour of Denmark and England by the selected team of the People's Republic of China.
Six men, four ladies and five officials formed the Chinese party, and four fixtures in each country, all at different venues, formed the playing programme. The Chinese team won all of the encounters, though some of their players showed that they we not at all invincible. None of the fixtures was slated as an official international, though in each instance it was quite clear that for the opening fixture in each country, the Danes and the English placed on court what was regarded as their strongest possible side. The Chinese did likewise. They beat the Danish representatives in Copenhagen by 10 matches to 0,and the English by 5 matches to 2.
In both countries the enthusiasm to see the visiting players was tremendous, and full houses of from 4.200 in Copenhagen and 2,500 in London, with slightly smaller crowds in the provincial towns, gave a fine atmosphere to the matches.
Remarkably Fine Singles Play
Analyses of the results of the matches of the Chinese players and impressions created by watching them in action provided much food for thought. The singles game is clearly the most developed in the People's Republic, and that of the leading players of the team remarkably high. In doubles the performances of the leading men's pair was equally good, but lower down the scale, in the case of the doubles game in all its three branches, the standard was probably not as high as the best in either Europe or elsewhere in Asia.
The two leading men of the team, Hou Chia-chang and Tang Hsien-hu, are very, very good indeed, quite as good, if perhaps not better, than any other players in the world. In fact, it will be conceded that in singles only Rudy Hartono is in their class. Whether the great Indonesian would beat either or both can only be guess-work. It must be remembered that Hartono has of recent years scarcely been fully tested anywhere. But he is seven years younger than both these Chinese. and that must count for something in assessing prospects which are unlikely to be confirmed for a while.
Both these leading Chinese players won all their singles matches with a good deal to spare. If they are now both over 30 years of age, they are nevertheless extremely fit, fit enough not to be worn down by anybody even in their own class as players. They are also both extremely fast movers, probably faster than anyone else now playing the game. Basically, it was to this asset that each owed much of his success at singles, though there were of course many other distinctions which they could claim. By itself, speed of foot is quite insufficient for success, and one must applaud their fantastic stroke-work and tactical knowledge.
Speed of foot enabled both to reach net shots earlier than other players do, and thus to make their replies that much earlier. It enabled them to reply to drop shots with the most delicate short drops which could be made at a point so much nearer the top of the net than one normally sees. In making these impressive close drops, they both appeared, not so much to hit the shuttle, but to stab it, and in so doing they seemed somehow to cause it to drop so much nearer the net on the opposite side than anybody else can.
But what impressed me more than these drop shots was what I would call giving the shuttle just the right amount of air when lifting it above the reach of an opponent. Never did either Hou or Tang merely clear the shuttle when desirous of pushing their opponent to the back of the court; their clears were really aggressive as they lifted the shuttle only just above the reach of an opponent who had been previously lured to the short service line. And these "drive-clears" invariably regained the attack for them as their opponents had all their work cut out to reach the shuttle at the back of the court only just before it was too late.
Strong wristy play was a great feature of both these Chinese. This enabled them to give no clue at all as to their intentions, and Tang, who impressed me the most, also had a very deceptive cut-drop which he used to his great advantage.
Their judgment on lines was also noteworthy. They appeared to know long before most players do whether a shuttle hit by an opponent was going to be "in" or not, even in cases of a matter of only a few inches. At the other end of the court their length was usually very good, though curiously both served a large number of rather short high services. Their quick eyes, however enabled them to deal with any aggressive reply quite satisfactorily.
These two, Hou and Tang, also constituted the top doubles pair and here again they went through the tour undefeated, though their victories were not quite so overwhelming as were achieved in singles. Tn the doubles matches it was, incidentally, noticeable that the Chinese partnerships never varied at all. This could be a lesson to other nations where switching of partners seems to have become quite a habit - sometimes a weekly one at that.
One can rank the Chinese players, so marked were their play and results. After the top two came Fang Kai-hsiang and Chen Tien-hsiang, also a little advanced in years at 32 and 28 respectively. Fang was clearly the No. 3 man at singles, and he too was never beaten. Chen was a good deal weaker, though he had a good and comfortable victory over Elo Hansen in Denmark.
These two also played doubles together, and quite successfully too, though they came perilously close to losing one match in Denmark to the scratch combination of Klaus Kaagaard and Tom Bacher. They were thus not unbeatable.
Players 5 and 6, Chou Ke-tsien and Lin Shu-keng, are both 23. They never won a match at all in Denmark and seemed to be carefully hidden as supernumeraries on the English part of the tour. They both had the same speed of foot as their seniors, but lacked the immaculate stroke-play and also made many unexpected errors.
One wonders if these two are really the next best to the top four men, or whether they were sent along on the tour for the sake of experience. The latter conjecture seems unlikely, for at 23 a player should, at singles anyway, have almost reached his best. So one cannot escape the thought that the Chinese are now, as a Badminton nation, at their highest peak of attainment. Their three top players are all over 30 and can therefore not be expected to retain their very high standard much longer. The reserves are unlikely to reach the superb class of the present leaders, and this assessment can be confirmed by the results of the Canadian tour of China last May; then the Canadians won quite a lot of matches against the lesser lights.
Ladies not so outstanding
The four ladies of the team were not quite so outstanding as the men.They were best at singles, and here they had sorne fine results, notably in Denmark, but in doubles they were not as good as the best European pairs, as the scores of the matches will testify. Certainly, the Chinese ladies would in neither branch of the game stand up successfully to the Japanese players of the moment. And it was obvious in the English matches that Mrs. Gilks possessed far too much aggressive play for their liking. Their defence could not quite stand up to that, though in singles their defence and speed of foot served them well, especially as mistakes were cut to below the normal of a European.
Few mixed doubles were played, and when they were played in Denmark, the home pairs appeared to be much too much of the scratch variety to enable one to make any sort of assessment of the best Chinese and the best Danish standard. In England it was different. Here. there was no doubt that English mixed play was superior, and there were times when the Chinese gave up any pretence of back-and-front play and reverted to the defensive game of "sides".
No doubt, the players and the public in all three countries concerned with the tour learned something to their advantage, and certainly the Chinese were most popular visitors. Their court behaviour was quite perfect, and if some of their opponents will have taken this to heart, they will have gained something to their own advantage. Nothing appeared to ruffle the pleasant demeanour of the tourists and this factor endeared the players much to their vast audiences.
CHINESE TOUR RESULTS IN DETAIL
CHINESE NATIONAL TEAM 10; DANISH NATIONAL TEAM 0
At Copenhagen on January 4th. Scores (Chinese names first):
Hou Chia-Chang beat S. Pri 15-6, 15-6. Tang Hsien-Hu beat E. Hansen 15-7, 15-4. Fang Kai Hsiang beat F. Delfs 15-5, 15-10.
Miss Chen Yu-Niang beat Miss L. Koppen 11-4, 11-2. Miss Liu Hsiao-Cheng beat Mrs. I. Rietveld Nielsen 11-3, 11-1. Miss Chiu Yu-Fang beat Mrs. L. Bostofte 11-4, 11-5.
Hou Chia-Chang and Tang Hsien-Hu beat S. Pri and P. Petersen 15-11, 15-7. Fang Kai-Hsiang and Chen Tien-Hsiang beat H. Borch and J. Mortensen 15-3, 15-4.
Miss Chen Yu-Niang and Miss Chiu Yu-Fang beat Mrs. l. Rietveld Nielsen and Mrs. B. F. Sorensen 15-5, 15-5. Miss Liu Hsiao-Cheng and Miss Lei Yung Yung beat Mrs. P. Kaagaard and Mrs. A. Christiansen (nee Flindt) 18-14, 13-15, 18-16.
CHINESE NATIONAL TEAM 8; DANISH TEAM 2
At Aarhus on January 8th. Scores (Chinese names first):
Tang Hsien-hu beat S. Pri 15-7, 15-3. Fang Kai-hsiang beat E. Hansen 15-8, 15-5.
Miss Chiu Yu-fiang beat Mrs. U. Strand 11-4, 6-11, 11-6.
Chou Ke-tsien and Lin Ka-sheng lost to E. Kops and E. Hansen 10-15, 2-15. Fang Kai-hsiang and Chen Tien-hsiang beat S. Pri and P. Petersen 15-12, 15-1. Hou Chia-chang and Tang Hsien-hu beat H. Borch and J. Mortensen 15-9, 15-4.
Miss Liu Hsiao-cheng and Miss Lei Yung-yung lost to Mrs. K. Jorgensen and Mrs. U. Strand 12-15, 9-15. Miss Chen Yu-niang and Miss Chiu Yu-fang beat Mrs. P. Kaagaard and Mrs. A. Christiansen 10-15, 15-8, 15-10.
Hou Chia-chang and Miss Chen Yu-niang beat H. Borch and Mrs. U. Strand 15-5. 15-6. Chen Tien-hsiang and Miss Liu Hsiao Cheng beat P. Petersen and Mrs. K. Jorgensen 15-11, 15-3.
CHINESE NATIONAL TEAM 8; DANISH TEAM 2
At Aalborg on January 10th. Scores (Chinese names first):
Fang Kai-hsiang beat S. Pri 15-9, 15-11. Chen Tien-hsiang beat E. Hansen 15-4, 15-4. Chou Ke-tsien lost to F. Delfs 15-17, 6-15.
Miss Lei Yung-young beat Miss L. Koppen 11-5, 11-9.
Chou Ke-Tsien and Lin Shu-heng lost to F. Delfs and C. Morild 7-15, 0-15. Hou Chia-chang and Tang Hsien-hu beat S. Pri and E. Kops 15-1, 15-9. Fang Kai-hsiang and Chen Tien-hsiang beat E. Hansen and P. Petersen 15-6, 15-3.
Miss Chen Yu-niang and Miss Chiu Yu-fang beat Mrs. U. Strand and Miss L. Koppen 15-11, 15-8.
Fang Kai-hsiang and Miss Liu Hsiao-cheng beat C. Morild and Miss L. Berend 15-4. 15-7. Chen Tien-hsiang and Miss Chen Yu-niang beat E. Hansen and Mrs. U. Strand 15-3, 15-4.
CHINESE NATIONAL TEAM 8; DANISH TEAM 2
At Odense on January 11th. Scores (Chinese names first):
Fang Kai-hsiang beat E. Hansen 15-11, 15-10. Chou Ke-tsien beat T. Nielsen 15-18, 15-7, 15-13. Lin Shu-heng lost to K. Kaagaard 2-15, 13-18.
Miss Chen Yu-niang beat Mrs. I. Rietveld Nielsen 11-2, 11-4. Miss Liu Hsiao-cheng beat Mrs. L. Bostofte 11-2, 11-3. Miss Chiu Yu-fang beat Miss L. Thomsen 11-3, 11-4.
Hou Chia-chang and Tang Hsien-hu beat E. Kops and E. Hansen 15-6, 15-8. Fang Kai-hsiang and Chen Tien-hsiang beat K. Kaagaard and T. Bacher 12-15, 15-8, 18-17.
Miss Chen Yu-niang and Miss Chiu Yu-fang beat Mrs. L. Bostofte and Miss L. von Barnekow 15-3, 15-6. Miss Liu Hsiao-cheng and Miss Lei Yung- yung lost to Miss E. Carlsen and Mrs. I. Rietveld Nielsen 8-15, 13-18.
CHINESE NATIONAL TEAM 5; ENGLISH NATIONAL TEAM 2
In London on January 16th. Scores (Chinese names first):
Hou Chia-chang beat D. Talbot 15-7, 15-4. Tang Hsien-hu beat R. P. Stevens 15-5, 15-2.
Miss Chen Yu-niang beat Miss M. Beck 11-4, 11-7.
Hou Chia-chang and Tang Hsien-hu beat D. Talbot and E. C. Stuart 15-2, 15-5. Fang Kai hsiang and Chen Tien-hsiang beat R. P. Stevens and M. G. Tredgett 15-5, 15-5.
Miss Chen Yu-niang and Miss Chiu Yu-fang lost to Miss M. Beck and Mrs. M. A. Gilks 9-15, 9-15.
Chen Tien-hsiang and Miss Liu Hsiao-cheng lost to J. D. Eddy and Mrs. M. A. Gilks 13-15, 15-8, 4-15.
CHINESE NATIONAL TEAM 5; ENGLISH TEAM 3
At Bristol on January 19th. Scores (Chinese names first):
Tang Hsien-hu beat D. Talbot 15-4. 15-2. Chen Tien-hsiang beat R. P. Stevens 15-11, 15-6.
Miss Liu Hsiao-cheng beat Miss M. Beck 11-6, 11-4.
Hou Chia-chang and Tang Hsien-hu beat R. P. Stevens and M. G. Tredgett 18-13, 15-9. Fang Kai-hsiang and Chen Tien-hsiang beat J. D. Eddy and E. H. Sutton 15-12, 15-6.
Miss Chen Yu-niang and Miss Chiu Yu-fang lost to Mrs. M. A. Gilks and Miss M. Beck 11-15, 18-13, 11-15. Miss Lei Yung-yung lost to Mrs. E. B. Nielsen and Mrs G. C. K. Hashman 4-15, 9-15.
Hou Chia-chang and Miss Chen Yu-niang lost to D. Talbot and Mrs. M. A. Gilks 9-15, 15-8, 12-15.
CHINESE NATIONAL TEAM 7; ENGLISH TEAM 1
At Carlisle on January 22nd. Scores (Chinese names first):
Hou Chia-chang beat R. P. Stevens 15-1, 15-1. Fang Kai-hsiang beat K. P. Arthur 15-4, 15-6.
Miss Liu Hsiao-cheng beat Miss M. Beck 11-5, 11-4.
Hou Chia-chang and Tang Hsien-hu beat D. Talbot and E. C. Stuart 15-3, 15-11. Fang Kai- hsiang and Chen Tien-hsiang beat J. D. Eddy and E. H. Sutton 15-1, 15-7.
Miss Chen Yu-niang and Miss Chiu Yu-fang lost to Mrs. M. A. Gilks and Miss M. Beck 7-15, 3-15. Miss Liu Hsiao-cheng and Miss Lei Yung-yung beat Mrs. E. B. Nielsen and Mrs. B. Cooper 15-11, 3-15, 18-13.
Tang Hsien-hu and Miss Chen Yu-niang beat D. Talbot and Mrs. M. A. Gilks 17-15, 15-6.
CHINESE NATIONAL TEAM 7; ENGLISH TEAM 1
At Birmingham on January 24th. Scores(Chinese namesfirst):
Fang Kai-hsiang beat D. Talbot 15-11, 15-4. Chen Tien-hsiang beat J. D. Eddy 15-1, 15-5.
Miss Liu Hsiao-cheng beat Miss M. Beck 11-4, 8-11, 11-3.
Hou Chia-chang and Tang Hsien-hu beat R. P. Stevens and M. G. Tredgett 15-8, 15-10.
Fang Kai-hsiang and Chen Tien-hsiang beat E. C. Stuart and E. H. Sutton 15-2, 15-3.
Miss Chen Yu-niang and Miss Liu Hsiao-cheng lost to Mrs. M. A. Gilks and Miss Beck, 3-15,10-15. Miss Chiu Yu-fang and Miss Lei Yung-yung beat Mrs E. B. Nielsen and Mrs G. C. K. Hashman 18-16, 12-15, 15-11.
Tang Hsien-hu and Miss Chen Yu-niang beat D. Talbot and Mrs M. A. Gilks 18-15, 15-5.
-- By Herbert Scheele – World Badminton January-February 1973