by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In Bangkok he beat Yu Heyi in the second match of the final (10-12, 11-7, 11-4, 13-11), before in the fifth and concluding contest of the fixture, overcoming Yang Shuo in a deciding game that could possibly have been closer (5-11, 13-11, 8-11, 11-4, 18-16).
Cho Seungmin added the one further Korean win by beating the luckless Yang Shuo in the opening match of the fixture (11-8, 11-8, 17-15); for China, Xu Haidong accounted for Hwang Minha (11-8, 11-7, 11-8), Yu Heyi defeated Cho Seungmin (9-11, 11-7, 11-4, 5-11, 11-9).
Both An Jaehyun and Hwang Minha are named in the Korean line-up this year; they are joined by Baek Hogyun and Cho Daeseong. Notably for China only Yu Heyi remains; Wang Chuqin, Xue Fei and Xu Yingbin complete the team.
However, the fact that Korea and China reached last year’s final means this year, they are not required to compete in the initial group stage; their quest starts with the progressive knock-out phase on Friday 30th June.
Three groups in the initial stage of proceedings; Japan, the no.3 seeds, with Yuto Kizukuri, Yukiya Uda, Shunsuke Togami and Masaki Takami on duty, topped their group in style.
It was the same for the fifth seeds, the Chinese Taipei quartet comprising Lin Yun-Ju, Feng Yi-Hsin, Li Hsin-Yang and Chen Chun-Hsiang; they finished in pole position without due alarm.
First place as anticipated; it was not the outcome for Hong Kong, the fourth seeds. Represented by Cheng Pak Hei, Tsang Tsz Tsun, Cheung Yin To and Pau Yik Man, they had to settle for second place behind India, the sixth seed. India selected from Manav Vikash Thakkar, Parth Virmani, Manush Shah and Jeet Chandra.
Disappointment for Hong Kong but second place in the group means progress to the main draw; in all events teams finishing in first and second positions advance.
Meanwhile, in the opening stage of the Cadet Boys’ Team event where all teams compete in the initial stage, Chinese Taipei, the no.5 seeds, secured first place in their group contrary to expectations. Represented by Feng Yi-Hsin, Li Hsin-Yu and Peng Chih, they finished ahead of Thailand, the no.4 seeds, who selected from Chettanabodi, Chanpen, Thyme Sanglertsilpachai and Nawin Mekamporn.
One surprise, in the remaining groups it was as expected. Japan, the top seeds, with Kazuki Hamada, Kakeru Sone and Jo Yokotani on duty, secured first place in their group, as did Korea and China, the next two in the order of merit.
Korea chose from Kim Jangwon, Park Gyeongtae and Yang Yechan; for China the selection was from Yu Zhengyang, Niu Guankai and Song Zhuoheng.
Play continues on Friday 30th June; the team events conclude on Saturday 1st July.
Photos: An Sungho