by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Following the shock defeat one day earlier of Ma Long in the third round at the hands of Korea’s Jeong Sangeun (11-9, 11-8, 6-11, 11-6), one day later at the quarter-final stage, Chinese national team colleague, Xu Xin, the no.3 seed, followed suit.
He was beaten by Japan’s Koki Niwa, the no.7 seed, by a similar margin to the defeat experienced by Ma Long (12-10, 6-11, 11-8, 11-7).
One game apiece, in the third game Koki Niwa established a lead, the deficit was reduced to two points at 9-7, Koki Niwa elected for “Time Out”; the decision bore fruit. In the fourth game Xu Xin trailed 4-1; Ma Lin the coach sitting courtside advising Xu Xin, understandably called “Time Out”, the break did not work.
At 10-5, Koki Niwa held five match points; my mind went back to last March and the ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open when in the seventh game, Koki Niwa’s compatriot, Jun Mizutani had led 10-4 in the seventh game against Xu Xin and had lost the next eight points.
Koki Niwa, lost the next two points but no more; he turned to coach Yosuke Kurashima, raised his arm in the air and gave the biggest smile of satisfaction ever to cross his face.
“Because we play best of five, I wanted to be the one that seized the initiative. In that way I had a chance to win. Xu Xin uses the pen-hold grip, so his backhand is a disadvantage, during the match my strategy was to play to his forehand at first and then attack his backhand. It proved very successful in the end. I received his serve by flicking the ball. He served long to my backhand but that didn’t cause me too much trouble. I still flicked the ball successfully. I know Xu Xin won’t easily give up, so when I was 10-5 ahead, I was really stressed. I keep telling myself to seize the chance; I won the match.”
At the semi-final stage Koki Niwa meets Jeong Sangeun; the two giant killers meet!
Not seeded Jeong Sangeun recovered from an opening game deficit, to overcome Japan’s Maharu Yoshimura, the no.12 seed, to reserve his place in the penultimate round (8-11, 15-13, 11-9, 11-8).
Winning the close second game was a major factor in the contest; equally there was another crucial moment in the fourth game when leading 4-3, Maharu Yoshimura, elected for a “Time Out” call.
However, Jeong Sangeun, relentless with his attacking play, maintained the positive approach; at 10-8 he held match point, at the first attempt the opportunity was converted.
“In the first game I couldn’t find a rhythm to my play and I didn’t receive service well; in the second game I prepared myself to receive his serves. Receive of service and service was crucial in the match and gradually I received better. I felt confident in the rallies especially when playing to his forehand but serve and receive was the vital factor.” Jeong Sangeun.
The semi-final is scheduled for 2.30pm (local time) on Sunday 16th April.