17 Aug 2017

The day belonged to Japan; in the history of the ITTF World Tour since the very first ball was hit in anger in 1996 in the English market town of Kettering, there has never been a day to compare with the happenings that occurred in Panagyurishte at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Asarel Bulgaria Open on Thursday 17th August.

At the 320th ITTF World Tournament, in the opening round of the Men’s Singles event, Japan fielded 11 players; in the counterpart Women’s Singles competition it was 16 in number. Incredibly, not one experienced defeat.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Thus after only one round of the Women’s Singles event, a total of 32 players; the destination of the title is known. The sun in the Land of the Rising Sun, has never shone higher and such a happening has never occurred on the ITTF World Tour.

Accepted in the Women’s Singles event, Japan did field 13 of the top 16 seeds but even so, it was quite remarkable performance; the players to upset the pecking order being Asao Sako, Miyu Maeda and Mizuki Morizono.

Asao Sako beat Hungary’s Georgina Pota, the no.7 seed (5-11, 9-11, 11-5, 11-7, 4-11, 12-10, 11-5); Miyu Maeda accounted for Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm, the no.9 seed (13-11, 16-14, 8-11, 11-8, 11-5), whilst Mizuki Morizono ended the hopes of Bulgaria’s Maria Yovkova, the no.16 seed (11-4, 11-7, 11-13, 11-7, 11-5).

Success against expectations, for the leading names in the opening round of the Women’s Singles event, it was success as per expectations. Kasumi Ishikawa, the top seed, beat the Czech Republic’s Iveta Vacenovska (6-11, 11-5, 11-6, 12-10, 11-5); Mima Ito, the no.2 seed, overcame Emina Hazziahmetovic of Belarus (11-6, 11-6, 11-0, 11-5).

Meanwhile, in the opening round of the Men’s Singles event, Asuka Machi, Kenta Tazoe, Mizuki Oikawa and Yukiya Uda, alongside Yuto Kizukuri, Taku Takakiwa, Kenji Matsudaira and Koyo Kanamitsu all caused first round upsets as the Japanese contingent in Panagyurishte grew in confidence.

Pride of place went Asuka Machi, Kenta Tazoe and Mizuki Oikawa. Asuka Machi beat England’s Paul Drinkhall, the no.6 seed (13-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-3), Kenta Tazoe accounted for Austria’s Robert Gardos, the no.7 seed (11-6, 11-7, 11-13, 6-11, 11-4, 11-8), whilst Mizuki Oikawa ended the hopes of the Czech Republic’s Tomas Konecny, the no.8 seed (11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 4-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-7).

Wins for Japan against the odds; at the top of the order there was also success. Kenta Matsudaira, the no.2 seed, beat the Czech Republic’s Tomas Tregler (11-7, 11-5, 11-6, 11-9). Likewise, almost unnoticed as Japan held sway; Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the top seed, ended the hopes of Russia’s Kirill Skachkov (11-7, 11-4, 7-11, 9-11, 15-13, 11-1).

A perfect record in the opening round of both the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles events; it was the same in the Men’s Doubles and Women’s Doubles competitions where Japan held the top seeded positions and set the standard.

In the opening round of the Men’s Doubles competition, Jin Ueda and Maharu Yoshimura beat India’s Harmeet Desai and Arjun Ghosh (11-5, 11-3, 11-4); in the Women Doubles event, Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato overcame Alina Arlouskaya and Alina Nikitchanka of Belarus (11-6, 10-12, 11-1, 11-1).

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