This year, as everyone at Ljubljana had expected, the Chinese and Japanese men's and women's teams reached the finals without serious opposition.
The women played first, and, astonishingly, against Japan's two hardest hitters China gambled on two defensive players using plain rubber and Western tennis grips rather than sponge and penholder grips. Retrieving smash after smash from 20 feet behind the table, they subdued the bewildered Japanese girls 3-0. The classic struggle—defense vs. attack—had been revived, and after 16 years of speed, defense won a world championship.
The Red Chinese are not well liked in the sport. Their players rarely mingle, even in the practice room, and they've mocked recent World Championships by dumping or defaulting to one another to let their best players advance without effort. In a quarter-final match of the World's singles in Prague, one of them laughingly served three successive times into the net against a comrade. Even so, Ferenc Sido, who passionately loves the game, was glowing when the Chinese retrievers won. "This was more like table tennis," he said. "You heard the crowd? You heard that good sound when the ball hit the racket? Perhaps in three years the game will come back."
The Swaythling Cup for men was easily won by two Chinese bombers and the Chopper.
Five days later Miss Fukazu of Japan restored her family pride by winning the singles title from a Chinese retriever. But in the finals of the men's singles, Chuang Tse-tung, defending champion, met Comrade Li Fu-jung. Chuang is a peacock for the Party, and they have ascribed the statement to him, "I owe my success to the study of Mao Tse-tung." Though Li was under orders and did his best to look interested, he will never win an Oscar. After one lovely pirouette a Spaniard on the top tier yelled, "Ol�!"
The next day the posters and flags that had adorned the Ljubljana shopwindows were taken down and the invaders dispersed. In front of the modern Lev Hotel, battered suitcases plastered with stickers and customs stamps of every nation were being secured atop the airport buses. Mr. Cooper of Australia was telling some Swedes that in 1967 they would have to go to Paris to get the jet that has already been chartered to carry the European teams to Melbourne for the World's. The Chinese officials were arranging themselves in a 1965 black Lincoln sedan borrowed from their embassy in Prague. Zarko Dolinar was again urging me to fly to Sarajevo in the afternoon and play in a small tournament with the Chinese and Russians. Since I hadn't played in Ljubljana I was tempted, but 40 Chinese, a dozen Russians and a lone American meeting in Sarajevo was asking history for an encore. Sido was embracing the Jubilee Cup for veterans in the crook of his right arm.
"Until Melbourne," he said to me. "And teach some American kids how to play. We must bring back the Game. Defense can do it."
"If I find a philanthropist, Sido," I said, "I'll devote my life to it."
From over my shoulder the gloomy growl of the King of Chiselers intoned, "Defense is finish. Today is attack! Toujours l'attaque!"