SINGAPORE - Two women paddlers produced an incredible 766-shot rally in the first round of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) Qatar Open on Thursday night, making it the longest exchange in a competitive table tennis match in the modern era.
With Dutch veteran Li Jie serving to Japan's Hitomi Sato in the third game of their women's singles match, the paddlers - both are defensive specialists - chose to stick to their chopping styles instead of attacking.
The point lasted 10 minutes and 13 seconds before it was interrupted.
Neither won this rally - a ball bouncing into the area the pair were playing in led to a let - and both players were called to replay the point. Li Jie won the replay in just a couple of shots.
Li Jie said: “In the third game which the long rally occured, I wanted to try changing my serve and started to 'push', I didn’t expect that Sato started to 'push' as well, and it ended up with that long rally.
“I didn’t realise that the rally went on for so long. After that my coach threw a ball into the court, and the umpires interrupted the game.
“At that point I was really relieved that that rally is over, because my arms were sweaty all over. After that, I think my attacks were better than hers, and won the next three games.”
“After that I felt very tired... I didn’t have any feeling of happiness after winning that match, just felt super tired. It took a while after the match until I recovered from that tiredness to be excited about winning that match.”
The expedite system was introduced for the rest of the match. It meant each player took turns to serve a point, with the receiving player earning the point after 13 shots. This rule encourages players to attack in order to win the point.
Li also eventually won the match - which went to the decisive rubber - 10-12, 6-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-9, 3-11, 11-9.
But she lost to Singapore's Feng Tianwei when they met in the round of 16. Feng will play China's Gu Yuting for a place in the semi-finals on Saturday night (8.15pm).
According to the ITTF, which has kept modern-day records since 1937, the longest rally took place at the 1936 world championships in Prague. Poland's Alojzy Ehrlich faced Paneth Farkas of Romania, and won a point after the ball crossed the net more than 12,000 times following 2hr 12min of play.