by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Six of the eight players on duty in Doha are from Japan, a fact that underlines the growing strength in depth possessed by the Asian country.
The two players in action not from the Land of the Rising Sun, Singapore’s Zeng Jian and Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem, have drawn each other in the first round; the other three contests all witness Japan versus Japan.
In the same half of the draw as Zeng Jian and Doo Hoi Kem, Sakura Mori plays Miyu Kato; in the opposite half Hina Hayata confronts Miyu Maeda, Saki Shibata opposes Yui Hamamoto.
Japan, the focus of attention in the Under 21 Women’s Singles event, it is the very same in the Under 21 Men’s Singles competition, where one name in particular attracts the attention.
Tomokazu Harimoto, who on Wednesday 7th December, at 13 years and 163 days old, became the youngest player ever to win the Boys’ Singles title at a World Junior Championships, is one duty in Doha.
He faces colleague Yuto Muramatsu in the opening round, thus guaranteeing Japan a semi-final place; furthermore, the numbers are in favour of a place in the final. In the same half of the draw, Mizuki Oikawa, also from Japan, opposes Korea’s Park Ganghyeon.
Players from Japan, here there and everywhere but not in the top half of the Under 21 Men’s Singles draw.
Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit meets Chinese Taipei’s Liao Cheng-Ting; Korea’s Lim Jonghoon opposes Frenchman, Can Akkuzu.
In Doha, both the Under 21 Men’s Singles and Under 21 Women’s Singles events are organised on a knock-out basis; not as in previous years with two group in the initial stage with players in first and second positions in each group advancing to the semi-finals.