by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Zhou Yu overcame Yuki Hirano in six games (11-7, 9-11, 4-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-5) but the previous day he had been beaten by Portugal’s Diogo Chen in five games (8-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-5, 13-11).
Pertinently, in the opening match of the group, Yuki Hirano had accounted for Diogo Chen in four straight games; thus games ratio determined the outcome. Yuki Hirano (6:4) finished in first place ahead of Zhou Yu (5:6) and Diogo Chen (4:5).
First place for Yuki Hirano was a major surprise; so was the success of Frenchman, Alexander Cassin. Unbeaten on the opening day of play, he accounted for Japan’s Jin Ueda to secure first place in the group.
Alexandre Cassin presently stands at no.207 on the Men’s World Rankings. Conversely, Jin Ueda is one of the most improved players of the year. He ended 2016 listed at no.95 on the Men’s World Rankings, now he is listed at no.28.
An impressive performance by one Frenchman to secure first place in the group against the odds, it was same for three more; unbeaten on the opening day, Can Akkuzu, Alexandre Robinot and Abdel-Kader Salifou rose to the challenge against players who, like Jin Ueda, have this year made notable progress.
Named at no.134 in the current order of merit, Alexandre Robinot accounted India’s Harmeet Desai, ranked no.89 (11-5, 7-11, 11-3, 4-11, 5-11, 11-6); likewise, ranked no.123, Can Akkuzu caused India problems, he beat Soumyajit Ghosh, ranked no.90 (2-11, 11-9, 4-11, 13-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-7). Not to be left out, Abdel-Kader Salifou accounted for Japan’s Yuto Kizukuri. Presently Abdel-Kader Salifou is listed at no.129, Yuto Kizukuri at no.79.
Top place in the group against expectations, the Frenchmen were not alone. Contrary to ranking, the Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek, Hong Kong’s Ng Pak Nam and Russia’s Kirill Skachkov all topped their groups as did Slovakia’s Lubomir Pistej, Sweden’s Jens Lundqvist and China’s Wang Chuqin.
Surprises but not for the leading names on qualification tournament duty; China’s Lin Gaoyuan and Liang Jingkun duly topped their groups as did Germany’s Bastien Steger and Denmark’s Jonathan Groth.