by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Leading the line was Maria Malanina, she caused the biggest upset by overcoming Cheng Hsien-Tu, the no.6 seed and a member of Chinese Taipei’s bronze medal winning outfit at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur. The 19 year old Russian recovered from a two games to nil deficit to emerge successful in seven games (6-11, 5-11, 11-6, 6-11, 11-2, 11-5, 11-8).
Success for Maria Malanina but for her colleague, Yana Noskova, it was the reverse scenario; the no.12 seed, she experienced defeat by the minimal two point margin in the deciding game in a contest that followed very much the same pattern of the Maria Malanina victory.
She was beaten by Sun Jiayi (9-11, 5-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-6, 13-11, 11-9), a young lady whose results since arriving on Croatian shores, suggest she is worthy of a top 100 World Ranking. I may venture to suggest that a place in the top 50 would more represent her ability.
Notable performances from Maria Malanina and Sun Jiayi, it was exactly the same from Jennifer Jonsson and Kim Haeun as they progressed to unchartered waters. Jennifer Jonsson accounted for Brazil’s Bruna Takahashi, the no.26 seed (11-7, 11-9, 11-13, 13-11, 11-13, 11-9), Kim Haeun ended the aspirations of Hungary’s Szandra Pergel, the no.13 seed (7-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-6, 15-13).
Surprise defeat but other than for Cheng Hsien-Tu, for the leading names it was second round success and prominently at the expense of qualifiers. Korea’s Lee Zion, the no.7 seed, accounted for Croatia’s Mateja Jeger, the no.29 seed (11-9, 11-3, 11-13, 11-3, 11-7) but was the exception to the rule as the leading names advanced.
Hitomi Sato, the top seed, beat Laura Pfeffer of France in five games (8-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-1, 11-6) to set the standard for her Japanese compatriots, the next three names in the order of merit. Honoka Hashimoto proved too solid in defence for Chinese Taipei’s Huang Yu-Wen (7-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-5, 11-4); Yui Hamamoto eventually overcame Oceane Guisnel, like Laura Pfeffer from France (8-11, 5-11, 11-3, 11-8, 11-7, 12-10). Meanwhile not to be upstaged by her colleagues, Saki Shibata beat the woman of Wales, Charlotte Carey (10-12, 11-6, 11-5, 11-9, 11-2).
Japan to the fore, Russia was not to be left behind; Polina Mikhailova, the no.5 seed and Maria Dolgikh, the no.8 seed, followed the example of Maria Malanina. Polina Mikhailova beat Daria Trigolos of Belarus (11-9, 11-9, 11-7, 11-7), Maria Dolgikh ended the travels of the Czech Republic’s Karolina Mynarova (11-7, 11-3, 11-3, 11-6).