by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem, the top seed, set the example; she accounted for Korea’s Kim Seoyeon in four straight games (11-4, 11-7, 11-4, 11-4).
At the same time, on the adjacent table, Honoka Hashimoto, the no.4 seed, beat Japanese colleague, Maki Shiomi, the no.7 seed (11-5, 7-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-9).
Less than one hour later, another all Japanese contest witnessed success for Hitomi Sato, the no.2 seed, she overcame Saki Shibata, the no.8 seed (11-8, 11-9, 8-11, 11-6, 12-10).
Impressive performances, it was the very same from Singapore’s Zeng Jian. The no.3 seed, she ended the adventures of Indian qualifier Ayhika Mukherjee (11-5, 11-7, 11-6, 11-2).
An expected win for Zeng Jian, it was the first time they had met, so perhaps there was a tinge of uncertainty. It was arguably the same for Doo Hoi Kem and Kim Seoyeon who had met on four previous occasions on the international scene but it was so long ago, the results provided minimal evidence.
In the cadet age group category, in 2010 on the ITTF World Junior Circuit in Chengdu; Doo Hoi Kem had lost to Kim Seoyeon in both the Girls’ Team and Girls’ Singles events. Later in the same year, again in the younger age group, when the met in Korea, Doo Hoi Kem prevailed, as she did in 2011 at the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships.
However, past results in the Japanese duels had arguably more relevance.
Accepted that there is the element of familiarity but in previous World Ranking events the decisions had been the reverse of that in Bangkok; furthermore, the outcomes were relatively recent, all on the 2016 ITTF World Tour.
Moreover, the margins of victory had been convincing. In Bulgaria and the Czech Republic Maki Shiomi had beaten Honoka Hashimoto in four straight games on both occasions. Similarly, in Kuwait and Bulgaria, Saki Shibata had overcome Hitomi Sato without the loss of a single game, prior to dropping just one game when they confronted each other in Belarus (8-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-5, 11-9).
2017 ITTF Challenge Thailand Open it was very much a reversal of fortunes.
In the penultimate round, Doo Hoi Kem meets Honoka Hashimoto, Hitomi Sato confronts Zeng Jian; the semi-finals and final will be played on Sunday 2nd April.