Oh Sang Eun en route to the Men's Singles quarter-finals
Photo By: Pablo Rubio
2011 Spanish Open - ITTF Pro Tour
Korea’s Oh Sang Eun laid the ghosts to rest in his third round Men’s Singles duel at the Spanish Open in Almeria on the afternoon of Saturday 9th April 2011.
In six games hard fought games (13-11, 11-7, 13-11, 9-11, 7-11, 16-14) he beat Japan’s Kenta Matsudaira to book his place in the quarter-finals of the Men’s Singles event.
It was a tension packed duel with the verdict on knife-edge until Oh Sang Eun won the last point and turned to his compatriot and advisor for the match, Kim Jung Hoon in celebration.
Never Previously Beaten
He had overcome a player he had never previously beaten.
“Today was the third time that I’ve played Kenta and it’s the first time I’ve won”, smiled a somewhat relieved Oh Sang Eun. “I lost to him in 2009 at the World Championships in Yokohama and at the Men’s World Cup in Moscow; in fact in Moscow in the group stage I think I led three-one in games and lost.”
Actually he led by two games to nil and three games to two before losing to Kenta Matsudaira but like all good players he resigned the past to history and recovered to beat Ma Long!
Ranking Favours Korean
A quite strange situation; one might be forgiven in thinking that it should be exactly the other way round. In Almeria Oh Sang Eun is the no.4 seed whereas Kenta Matsudaira is the no.10 seed.
A Generation Apart
Also, they are a generation apart; 14 years almost to the day.
Next week, on Monday 11th April, Kenta Matsudaira celebrates his 20th birthday; two days later on Wednesday 13th April, Oh Sang Eun will be 34 years old.
Oh Sang Eun was a member of the Korean National Junior Team before Kenta Matsudaira was born!
“Against Kenta you can expect long rallies”, explained Oh Sang Eun. “He has good services and he blocks the ball well.”
Kenta Matsudaira has his own trademark serving action but as more and more players are acclimatised to his range of services, the blocking aspect of his game is starting to be a priority.
Also, Kenta Matsudaira tends to play more from the centre of the table than most other players.
“Often I played wide to his backhand”, concluded Oh Sang Eun. “He’s small so I tried to use the angles, play wide and change direction.”
Actually that’s another difference between Kenta Matsudaira and Oh Sang Eun; the Korean is twice as tall; well almost.
Kenta Matsudaira in full flight after being forced wide by Oh Sang Eun
Koreans Assured of Final Place
Victory for Oh Sang Eun on what was a very productive round for Korea; a total of five Koreans started the round and five Koreans succeeded.
Furthermore even though the quarter-finals have yet to be decided, Korea is assured of a Men’s Singles finalist; the lower half of the draw sees four Koreans on duty, the only one in the top half is Kim Min Seok.
Seeded no.8, he beat Croatia’s Andrej Gacina, the no.18 seed, in four straight games (11-4, 11-6, 11-2, 12-10).
Lower Half of Draw
Meanwhile, in the lower half of the draw; Joo Se Hyuk, the no.2 seed, defeated Romania’s Adrian Crisan, the no.11 seed in four straight games (11-9, 11-6, 11-6, 11-4); Lee Jung Woo the no.6 seed proved too fast for Russia’s Kirill Skackov and won in five games (11-8, 11-7, 4-11, 12-10, 11-6); whilst Seo Hyun Deok brought the round to end by dousing any medal aspirations Spain may have harboured.
Seeded no.30, he accounted for He Zhiwen in five games (11-13, 11-8, 11-5, 11-6, 13-11).
Wins for Belarus, Turkey and France
Success for Korea and in addition there was success for Belarus, Turkey and France.
Vladimir Samsonov, the no.1 seed, withstood a typically spirited challenge from Japan’s Kaii Yoshida, the no.9 seed, to win in six games (9-11, 11-5, 11-4, 15-13, 9-11, 12-10); whilst Turkish qualifier, Li Ahmet overcame Hong Kong’s Cheung Yuk, the no.17 seed in six games (14-12, 12-10, 6-11, 11-4, 5-11, 11-8).
In the one remaining match, another generation gap duel, the all French affair saw 37 year old Christophe Legout beat 22 year old Emmanuel Lebesson in four straight games (13-11, 13-11, 11-4, 11-5).
Experience told as it did for Oh Sang Eun.
The end of the road for He Zhiwen, beaten by Seo Hyon Deok
Photos by Pablo Rubio