May 29, 2003

Hou Yingchao Talks About The Choppers

(Chung's notes: This interview with Hou was conducted in Paris after the upset losses of the Chinese top players to defenders.)

Ding Song surprised the world with his skills several years ago, but lately we seem to have forgotten about that style of play. In this Worlds, choppers once again asserted themselves, but unfortunately the Chinese were the victims. Wang Hao's loss to Chen Weixing and Ma Lin's loss to Joo Se Hyuk were two of the biggest losses ever suffered by the Chinese. The two players left the hall quickly after the matches, and we were left with questions. Our reported asked Hou Yingchao, the only chopper on our team, to explain those losses.

Reporter: Why did Ma Lin lose?

Hou: I feel that our players should have little problem playing choppers. But the team practices less against those choppers that use long pips on the backhand. We have very few players of that style, and their levels are not very high. The qualities of their chopping and their other techniques are less than Joo's. In our training, our partners could not generate high quality backspins and exert pressure like Joo can. However, if we stress the importance of playing against choppers and focus our training on that, our top players should have little trouble against choppers, since our players have such good forehand skills.

Reporter: What is special about Joo?

Joo mainly relies on his backhand skills, and the backhand creates attack opportunities for his forehand. That was how his match against Ma went: the way he scored points, and all his tactics, were based on the backhand.

R: How should we play Joo?

H: Make him move foreward and backward a lot. In other words, place the ball from far to close table,and from close table loop the ball to far table. Make him move continuously in and out. A chopper's footwork is such that he has trouble moving from close table to far away from the table, and not from far to close. Today, Ma Lin did not use this tactic much. More often he would just loop the ball, and not move the ball close and then loop it far.

R: When Ma Lin tried to drop short, he hit the ball into the net on several occasions. Why?

H: Ma Lin did not judge the spin correctly. Joo's spin was very strong, and beyond what Ma could control. That's why Ma netted the ball.

R: What are Chen Weixing's strengths?

H: Compared to Joo, Chen has more experience. He plays a very practical, seasoned game.

R: What are the differences among the three of you (Hou, Chen and Joo)?

H: We all have our own specialties. Our backhand techniques are different. Joo's chops are deeper and spinnier, and they pressured the opponents. Chen is a very steady chopper and seldom makes mistakes. I have more variations in my backhand spins than they. I use a different rubber than theirs, and I can create spin with my backhand rubber. Our forehands are roughly the same style, but they are better in forehand rallies and continuous attacks than I am. But I have more power and speed on my forehand attacks.

R: How large is the development space for choppers?

H: The space is very big. Among the final 8 in this Worlds, 2 are choppers, so there is great potential. We can produce great choppers if we stress such development. In our team's history, we have great choppers such as Chen Xinhua and Ding Song, and they acted as secret weapons. If we only emphasize the development of chopping techniques, the foreign choppers cannot possibly compete against us.

R: Which is the more advanced technique: defensive chopping style or attacking style?

H: Ding Song influenced a generation of players. His style is conceptually different than the old style. He has strong attacks, in contrast to the purely defensive style of the past. Now the chopping style has developed into one that can also attack via looping as well as defensive chopping, so there is a great deal of freedom in the choice of shots. The all-round chopper is the new trend for defensive players. But looking at the overall picture, the most advanced style is the two-winged shakehand style like Boll's or Kong's. It is an all-round balanced style with almost no weakness.

Back To Index