by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Asuka Sakai, the no.2 seed, after in the latter stages, accounting for Saudi Arabia’s Ali Alkhadrawi, the no.6 seed (11-7, 11-9, 11-3), overcame colleague, Takuto Izumo, the no.4 seed (5-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-9) to reserve his place in the final against the man in form, Hong Kong’s Lam Siu Hang.
Earlier, Lam Siu Hang, the no.3 seed, had overcome India’s Ronit Bhanja (11-6, 11-7, 11-13, 11-5), prior to causing somewhat of an upset by ousting Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto, the top seed and reigning World Junior champion.
Lam Siu Hang prevailed in five games (11-6, 3-11, 16-18, 11-9, 11-9). Success by the minimal two point margin, against Asuka Sakai, it was almost as close; a three point gap was the outcome in the decider (11-8, 5-11, 11-4, 10-12, 11-8).
Alas for Lam Siu Hang, it was a second defeat at the final hurdle; on his one other appearance in an ITTF World Tour Under 21 Men’s Singles final, it had also been the silver medal. In 2015 in Poland, he was beaten by the host nation’s Jakub Dyjas in the title deciding contest.
Conversely, success for Asuka Sakai meant that he collected his fourth career ITTF World Tour Under 21 Men’s Singles title; in 2012 he had won in Olomouc, in 2014 in both Australia and Kuwait.
Likewise, it was a fourth ITTF World Tour Under 21 Women’s Singles title for Sakura Mori; in 2014 she won in both Belarus and on home soil in Japan, last year she succeeded in Austria.
In New Delhi, the top seed, she beat Hong Kong’s Minnie Soo Wai Yam, the no.2 seed, in a dramatic final (4-11, 13-11, 6-11, 11-5, 12-10), having at the quarter-final stage defeated India’s Oriyanka Pareek, the no.8 seed and one round later, Mak Tze Wing, the no.3 seed and like Minnie Soo Wai Yam from Hong Kong (8-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-7).
Meanwhile, in the corresponding half of the draw, Minnie Soo Wai Yam, who was appearing in her first ever such final, had ended the hopes of the host nation en route to the title decider.
At the quarter-final stage she beat Ayhika Mukherjee, the no.5 seed (11-9, 13-11, 11-9), prior to recording a semi-final victory in opposition to Sreeja Akula, the no.7 seed (11-2, 13-11, 11-7). Notably, one round earlier Sreeja Akula had beaten Chinese Taipei’s Lin Po-Hsuan, the no.4 seed (11-7, 6-11, 6-11, 11-3, 11-9).
In what is now 233 ITTF World Tour tournament, when Under 21 Men’s Singles and Under 21 Women’s Singles events have been held, it is the 53rd time Japan has secured the top step of the men’s podium, for the women, the 68th occasion.