by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
All four semi-finalists not seeded, a situation that has never previously happened on the ITTF World Tour, Shang Kun survived a fierce test when confronting colleague, the quicksilver Lin Gaoyuan.
He recovered from a three games to one deficit to secure victory (7-11, 8-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-4) and thus achieved a landmark in his career.
“Lin Gaoyuan is a great player I had to fight all the way. I feel calm and I was focused during the match; in game five I felt I could come through, I felt things were turning my way”, Shang Kun after beating Lin Gaoyuan
It was only the second time that Shang Kun had reached an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles semi-final; more pertinently, it was the first time that he had won.
The one other occasion was at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Japan Open. After causing a sensation by beating compatriot Ma Long in the second round; then overcoming Japan’s Yuto Muramatsu in the quarter-finals, he was beaten by the latter’s colleague, Maharu Yoshimura, in the penultimate round.
Likewise for Lin Gaoyuan, it was only his second ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles semi-final escapade; on the one previous occasion in Korea in 2011, further progress was halted by the host nation’s Lee Sangsu
“I started aggressively with a high risk game, a strong attack to put him under pressure but in game five I hesitated a little; he saw that and kept his calm. He made an excellent come back”, Lin Gaoyuan after losing to Shang Kun
A hard fought win for Shang Kun; in the contest that brought the evening to a conclusion, Yan An gave a blistering performance to beat Germany’s Ruwen Filus.
Underlining the value of timing the ball early, an art at which the Chinese set an example to the rest of the world, Yan An gave Ruwen Filus minimal time to demonstrate his defensive skills. A straight games outcome (11-8, 11-3, 11-3, 11-7) was the verdict.
“I was well prepared for this match and started playing better after the first game when I had the feeling for his style”, Yan An after beaten Ruwen Filus
It was the eighth time that Yan An had appeared in an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles semi-final; the fourth time he had won; the previous successful occasions being in 2013 in Qatar and Sweden, in 2014 in Kuwait.
“I had good first game I think; but after that he started taking the ball very early I had no time to play, no time to return with good quality. I had a great tournament beating lot of good players, a good start of the year”, Ruwen Filus after losing to Yan An
Meanwhile, for Ruwen Filus, it was his second defeat in three such appearances. In 2013 in the Czech Republic he had been beaten in the penultimate round by Spain’s Carlos Machado; before in 2015 in Belarus overcoming Japan’s Mizuki Oikawa, prior to suffering defeat in the final when confronting Qatar’s Li Ping.
The final will be played on the afternoon of Sunday 21st January.