by Simon Daish
Xu Xin, who is seeded third for the competition, was victorious in his opening match in Doha as he saw off French qualifier Abdel-Kader Salifou in straight games (11-8, 11-6, 11-6, 11-6) while Fang Bo endured a difficult tie against Korea Republic’s Jang Woojin in their Round of 32 encounter with seven games being required before the Chinese representative finally sealed his progress (8-11, 14-12, 10-12, 11-7, 11-9, 10-12, 11-3).
The Qoros 2015 World Championships in Suzhou, China hosted a tie between Xu Xin and Fang Bo in the last 16. Fang Bo won on that day and would eventually go on to reach the Men’s Singles final, but Xu Xin prevailed in their most recent on the World Tour which took place at the Laox 2016 ITTF World Tour Japan Open.
Another intriguing encounter in Doha that could be worth keeping a close eye on is the match up of Portugal’s Marcos Freitas and Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar in the top half of the Round of 16 draw.
Tomislav Pucar has been in fine form so far at the Qatar Open and his seven games triumph over Iran’s Noshad Alamiyan in the previous round (5-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 12-10, 8-11, 11-5) will provide the Croatian contestant with great confidence heading into his match against the no.12 seed Marcos Freitas.
Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching is the no.4 seeded player for the Women’s Singles draw, and awaiting her in the last 16 is a tricky encounter with Misaki Morizono of Japan.
Runner up at the Seamaster 2016 Women’s World Cup in Philadelphia Cheng I-Ching has demonstrated that she has the ability to go on and succeed on the world stage, but don’t rule out the possibility of an upset in Doha with Misaki Morizono having already beaten the 2016 European Women’s Singles champion Hu Melek on Day One of the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open.
Miyu Kato of Japan put in a marvelous performance in the Round of 32, as the world no.34 eliminated the 12th seed Jeon Jihee in style (15-13, 13-15, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 10-12, 11-4).
Next up for Miyu Kato is the challenge of taking on the no.6 seed and fellow compatriot Mima Ito, with a spot in the last eight up for grabs.
Elsewhere, Singapore’s Feng Tianwei will take on Li Jie of the Netherlands, and the no.5 seed Han Ying will face the no.9 seed Chen Meng.
Following the shock Men’s Doubles elimination of Ma Long and Zhang Jike on Day One of the main competition, there is just the one pairing from China that remains in the event with Fan Zhendong and Liang Jingkun set to participate in the quarter-finals where they will meet France’s Tristan Flore and Emmanuel Lebesson.
Kasumi Ishikawa and Miu Hirano both suffered surprise exits from the Women’s Singles category in Doha, but the Japanese duo are set to take to the table once again in the Women’s Doubles competition with Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem and Lee Ho Ching providing the opposition in their opening encounter of the day.