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Pips for the bats of China
Dick Miles
February 24, 1975
Reverting to pebbled sponge rackets and an active attacking game, Peking's iron men regain the world team championship in Calcutta
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February 24, 1975

Pips For The Bats Of China

Reverting to pebbled sponge rackets and an active attacking game, Peking's iron men regain the world team championship in Calcutta

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After honing their scalpels on Japan (5-3), the Chinese went to work on Sweden. This, although a semifinal, was supposed to be the big match, and the Swedes were given a good chance. But only the 6'3" Johansson, nicknamed The Hammer, came through. He made comebacks against Liang and Li and won both of those matches, but Bengtsson lost the three he played, and Ulf Thorsell, the third Swede, did not have a prayer in his two.

That brought things to the finals where, curiously, the undefeated Chinese again saw Yugoslavs coming to the table, grim but ambulatory—a team left for dead in the operating room. But there was no mistake: China and Yugoslavia had finished first and second in their group, then Yugoslavia had beaten Czechoslovakia, the top-finishing team in Group A, and so moved into the finals.

Surbek, 28, is not the most graceful of players; the Yugoslav is often forced out of attacking position and on to defense. But he has a shot for this. Retreating to the barrier, some 18 feet behind the table, he returns his opponents' kill shots with high arcing lobs that soar about 20 feet above the net and are not easy to put away because of the topspin they carry. In the finals against Hsu, Surbek often made half a dozen successive lobs, and if Hsu weakened on any kill Surbek would lunge at the ball with a savage forehand counterdrive, hurtling his entire body at it, usually ending up on the floor with the point won or lost above him.

Hsu was quite a different player. To appreciate Hsu one must understand form and the beauty of mathematics, or, as one Dutch player put it, "the concept of space and time." Hsu's most interesting trait is a serve in which he throws the ball 15 feet straight up. The increased velocity of the ball, falling from that height, gives Hsu more mass to deal with at impact, thus more spin.

Hsu was undefeated when he met Surbek the second time around, and Surbek had lost only once, to Hsu. This time Surbek evened their personal record with a stunning comeback win, 21-23, 21-16, 21-14, but China won, five matches to three, and therefore the cup.

Afterward Chinese players went back to the practice room to warm up for the singles. A Hong Kong player passing through heard one Chinese say to another, "I am getting tired, let's quit. Last 50 games."

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