by Ian Marshall, Publications Editor
In the Men’s Doubles event, Japan’s Kenji Matsudaira and Jin Ueda, the no.5 seeds, accounted for India’s Amalraj Anthony and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, the top seeds (11-7, 12-14, 11-6, 12-10); Singaporean qualifiers, Gao Ning and Pang Xue Jie, overcame Chinese Taipei’s Sun Chia-Hung and Wang Tai-Wei (11-4, 11-9, 11-9).
Conversely in the Women’s Doubles’ penultimate round exchanges; Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato, the two technically very correct defensive artistes, the winners two weeks ago in Belarus, justified their top seeded berth. They beat Chinese Taipei’s Huang Yu-Wen and Lin Po-Hsuan, the no.6 seeds (9-11, 11-3, 11-5, 11-9).
An impressive performance from the top seeds, it was the very same from the second seeds; Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem and Mak Tze Wing ended the last remaining hopes of the host nation. They beat Orawan Paranag and Suthasini Sawettabut in three straight games (11-5, 11-9, 11-8).
Surprise Men’s Doubles results; not in reality, both pairs lost against opponents who included players with noteworthy pedigree in the event.
Neither Amalraj Anthony nor Sathiyan Gnanasekaran has ever reached an ITTF World Tour or ITTF Challenge Series Men’s Doubles final; in fact no Indian pairing has ever won such a title.
The nearest is runners up spot; in 2009 on home soil in Indore Sharath Kamal Achanta and Subhajit Saha experienced defeat at the hands of Gao Ning and Singaporean colleague, Yang Zi; six years later in Tweed Heads, Australia, Harmeet Desai and Soumyajit Ghosh lost to Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit and Lam Siu Hang.
Contrawise on the ITTF World Tour in 2012, Kenji Matsudaira won in partnership with Jun Mizutani; one year later in Yokohama, again with a Japanese colleague, Maharu Yoshimura, Jin Ueda enjoyed success.
Meanwhile, no player on duty in Bangkok and very few worldwide can match Gao Ning. On the ITTF World Tour he has five Men’s Doubles titles to his name and three at the Grand Finals!
Competing on the ITTF World Tour, he won on four occasions with Yang Zi, once with Li Hu; at the Grand Finals, it is twice with Li Hu, once with Yang Zi. Even though Pang Xue Jie has never reached an ITTF World Tour Men’s Doubles final; the Chinese Taipei duo could not match the Singaporeans. Wang Tai-Wei had no record of such success; in 2016 in Bulgaria, Sun Chia-Hung had finished in runners up spot in harness with colleague Liao Cheng-Ting.
Now 34 years old and becoming the father of the house in Singapore, Gao Ning provides the perfect foil for the nine years younger Pang Xue Jie.
The finals of both the Men’s Doubles and Women’s Doubles events will be played on Sunday 2nd April.