by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
On day two, in both events, the second seeds enter the arena.
In the Men’s Singles event, Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan faces Sweden’s Anton Källberg, a player from a different generation. Chuang Chih-Yuan is 36 years old and currently listed at no.10 on the Men’s World Rankings; conversely, Anton Källberg is 19 years of age and is named at no.90 in the global order.
It is the first time that the two have met on the international scene; meanwhile, in the Women’s Singles event, Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa opposes Singapore’s Zhou Yihan, a player who is no stranger. On the ITTF World Tour they met in 2014 in China and in 2016 in Sweden; on both occasions Kasumi Ishikawa won.
The evidence favours Chuang Chih-Yuan and Kasumi Ishikawa but following the theory that the first match is the hardest; could the encounters in Incheon be just that degree harder? Both have had a break from the international scene; neither competed in the recent Seamaster 2017 ITTF Asian Championships in Wuxi.
Worthy opponents for Chuang Chih-Yuan and Kasumi Ishikawa but as the first round matches conclude; in the Men’s Singles event the contest between Portugal’s Marcos Freitas, the no.5 seed and Germany’s Benedikt Duda catches the eye, as in the Women’s Singles event does the duel between Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, the no.3 seed and Japan’s Miyu Maeda.
Marcos Freitas and Benedikt Duda met at last year’s Liebherr 2016 European Championships, Marcos Freitas won but he needed the full seven games; likewise past results suggest that Miyu Maeda is a testing opponent for Cheng I-Ching. They have met twice on the ITTF World Tour; in the Under 21 Women’s Singles event in 2010 in Austria it was success for Miyu Maeda; more recently in the Women’s Singles competition in 2015 in Sweden, Cheng I-Ching prevailed.
The first round of both the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles events to be concluded; nevertheless, there are intriguing matches already beckoning in round two.
Romania’s Hunor Szocs, the surprise first round winner over Jeoung Youngsik opposes Japan’s Maharu Yoshimura but arguably the match to savour is that between Frenchman, Simon Gauzy, the no.6 seed and Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson, the no.14 seed. In the Men’s Team event at the Liebherr 2015 European Championships. Simon Gauzy prevailed, at last year’s Liebherr 2016 Men’s World Cup Kristian Karlsson emerged successful.
A match to attract the attention but if there is one contest which the Incheon crowd awaits, it is the second round Women’s Singles duel between their very own Yang Haeun, the no.15 seed and Japan’s Miu Hirano, the no.5 seed and newly crowned Asian champion.
Miu Hirano, in the form of her life, starts as favourite but the fast attacking style of the 17 year old may well suit Yang Haeun; furthermore, on their one previous international meeting, in the Women’s Singles event at the GAC Group 2015 German Open, Yang Haeun emerged successful.
In both the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles events, play progresses to the quarter-final round.