by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Earlier Masaki Yoshida had excelled, wins over Frenchman Emmanuel Lebesson and Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov had been outstanding results; against Fen Zhendong it was a very different scenario.
Masaki Yoshida was never able to reproduce the form of earlier in the tournament; more accurately he was never allowed the reproduce that form. Fan Zhendong had done his homework; he repeated the success of previous encounters; notably he had beaten Masaki Yoshida at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Hyderabad.
Athletic, Masaka Yoshida receives service from a comparatively wide position on the backhand side of the table; time and again a Fan Zhendong backhand top spin, executed down the line left the 22 year old flat footed.
“I knew he beat Jeoung Youngsik and Dimitrij Ovtcharov earlier; I was having some therapy yesterday so I didn’t manage to watch his matches. We played before at the Asian Junior Championships and World Junior Championships, so I knew his strengths and I knew how I could take control of the match against him”, Fan Zhendong
It was a most comprehensive win; the contest between Chuang Chih-Yuan and Koki Niwa was a much closer affair.
Seeding and history pointed in favour of Chuang Chih-Yuan. He was the no.10 seed as opposed to Koki Niwa, who was the no.13 seed.
Furthermore, they had met on five occasions in World ranking events; Chuang Chih-Yuan had won all five. Age must be taken into account; there is a 13 year gap, Chuang Chih-Yuan being 35 years old. Notably Chuang Chih-Yuan had prevailed at last year’s Asian Olympic Qualification tournament in Hong Kong, so he had reason to enter the fray with confidence.
It appeared he was going to follow in the footsteps of Fan Zhendong and record a comprehensive straight games win; he won the first six points of the opening game.
However, Koki Niwa recovered, won the game; then led by two games to one before Chuang Chih-Yuan levelled and in the fifth went ahead 7-6. He elected for “Time Out”, the break worked, confidence blossomed, the game and the next was won.
“In the first game I made a really good start, I went 6-0 ahead but then I missed any easy ball, the ball seemed to stop, not come through as I expected; when that happens it can really affect your confidence, it makes you unsure. In the fifth game I took the “Time Out” at 7-6; I’d been ahead in the game and I wanted to make sure I stayed focused and took advantage of the fact that I had the next service. Throughout the match, Koki kept confusing me with his services, they were difficult to read; in the rallies I felt confident”, Chuang Chih-Yuan.
At the semi-final stage Chuang Chih-Yuan meets Ma Long, Fan Zhendong opposes colleague, Fang Bo.