China on course, can Japan halt progress?
All three steps of the podium, all four semi-finalists from China; at the Bank of Communications 2020 ITTF Finals in Zhengzhou, when play concludes on the second day of action, Friday 20th November, in both men’s and women’s events such a scenario is more than possible.
Very much the focus is on Japan; for the men Koki Niwa, for the women, Mima Ito.
However, if Mima Ito is to challenge, in the first instance she must overcome a very testing opponent. In the opening round, the no.2 seed, she faces Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem, the no.10 seed, a player against whom in world ranking events it is honours even; four wins apiece. However, in their most recent meeting, the 2019 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open, the decision went in favour Mima Ito; she prevailed in four straight games. The result suggest the balance is in favour of Mima Ito.
Success and Wang Yidi awaits; Doo Hoi Kem has never confronted the Chinese 23-year-old, Mima Ito has lost three of the four encounters. However, in 2019 it was decisions shared; on the ITTF World Tour Mima Ito prevailed when they met in the opening round in China, Wang Yidi in the final in Hong Kong.
Somewhat differently, for Koki Niwa in round one, the no.10 seed, he opposes Lin Gaoyuan, the no.5 seed; a player he has never beaten since succeeding in the boys’ singles final at the 2011 World Junior Championships. All four meetings since that date have finished in the hands of the Chinese star.
Waiting for the winner is the player in form, Korea Republic’s Jang Woojin, the 14 seed and victorious in the opening round when facing Koki Niwa’s colleague, Tomokazu Harimoto, the no.4 seed. At the Dishang 2020 ITTF Men’s World Cup, Jang Woojin beat Koki Niwa in the first round by the narrowest of margins, rather differently in their one prior encounter, the 2019 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open, Jang Woojin lost to Lin Gaoyuan.
Enticing contests on offer; in the men’s singles, at the quarter-final stage, Fan Zhendong, the top seed, faces Brazil’s Hugo Calderano, the no.6 seed; in the opposite half of the draw Ma Long, the no.3 seed, confronts Sweden’s Mattias Falck, the no.8 seed. Xu Xin, the no.2 seed, faces either Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju, the no.7 seed or Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the no.9 seed.
Eyes point to China; Fan Zhendong lost to Hugo Calderano at the 2018 Grand Finals but at the Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, he reversed the decision. A third quarter-final meeting in three years and a good omen for Fan Zhendong; last year Zhengzhou was also the venue.
A strong argument in favour of Fan Zhendong; it is the same for his colleagues. Xu Xin has never lost to Lin Yun-Ju and has won the most recent six contests when facing Dimitrij Ovtcharov. Similarly, Ma Long has always beaten Mattias Falck.
Impressive records, it is just as emphatic in the women’s singles. Chen Meng, the top seed and in a rich vein of form, faces Germany’s Petrissa Solja, the no.14 seed, a player she has confronted on just one prior occasion, the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Junior Championships in Bahrain.
Similarly in the same half of the draw, Sun Yingsha, the no.3 seed, faces Korea Republic’s Suh Hyowon, the no.16 seed, an adversary she beat in the opening round on the 2019 ITTF World Tour in Japan.
Meanwhile in lower half of the draw, Wang Manyu, the no.4 seed, confronts either Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, the no.5 seed, or Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz, the no.13 seed. Wang Manyu and Cheng I-Ching have never met on the international stage; on the ITTF World Junior Circuit in 2013, Wang Manyu beat Adriana Diaz in the cadet girls’ singles event.
Editor: Ian Marshall