by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Kenta Matsudaira are no strangers to each other; seven meetings in world ranking events, the German has won six, the most recent being in the opening round of the Men’s Singles event at the 2016 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open.
However, it is the one defeat that is the most memorable of the encounters.
At the semi-final stage of the first Boys’ Singles event at the 4th ITTF World Junior Championships in Cairo on Sunday 17th December 2006, Dimitrij Ovtcharov led Kenta Matsudaira by three games to two. In the sixth he was in sight of victory, he was ahead 10-7. Kenta Matsudaira saved all three match points and one more before winning the game 15-13 and eventually the decider to reserve his place in the final.
Now, that was junior days; since then a great deal of water has flowed under the bridge. The difference between the two is quite startling.
In Panagyurishte, Dimitrij Ovtcharov will be competing in his 14th ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles final, to date he has won seven times. Conversely, for Kenta Matsudaira, it will be only his third such venture and he will be seeking to climb one step higher than two years ago in Panagyurishte. In 2015 he was beaten in the final by Korea’s Kim Donghyun; later in 2016, he was to win in Austria.
Also in 2015, Kasumi Ishikawa reached the Women’s Singles final in Bulgaria; she beat Japanese colleague, Ai Fukuhara, in the final. Now in 2017 she will be appearing in her 11th ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles final, overall she has six wins to her name.
Understandably Mima Ito, at 16 years of age, over seven years the junior of Kasumi Ishikawa, has far less experience of ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles finals. Nevertheless, the record is impressive; four appearances to date, she has won three times.
Pertinently, Kasumi Ishikawa and Mima Ito have met on three occasions in world ranking events; Kasumi Ishikawa has won all three encounters.
Adversaries in the Women’s Singles final; colleagues in the Women’s Doubles final; the no.4 seeds they face the combination of Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm and Hungary’s Georgina Pota, the no.2 seeds.
It is the first time for Kasumi Ishikawa and Mima Ito as partners in an ITTF World Tour Women’s Doubles final; for Matilda Ekholm and Georgina Pota it is their fourth. Last year they won in the Czech Republic, this year they were the runners up in Hungary, the winners in India. Additionally, this year they won the Challenge Series tournament in Slovenia.
Meanwhile, in the Men’s Doubles final, Japan’s Jin Ueda and Maharu Yoshimura, the top seeds meet India’s Soumyajit Ghosh and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, the no.5 seed.
It is the first time as a pairing that Soumyajit Ghosh and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran have reached an ITTF World Tour Men’s Doubles final; pertinently Jin Ueda and Maharu Yoshimura won in 2013 on home soil in Yokohama and earlier this year in China.
The Women’s Doubles final is scheduled to start at 1.00pm followed immediately by the Men’s Doubles final; at 3.00pm the Women’s Singles final will commence being followed by the Men’s Singles title deciding contest.