by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The outcome meant that Jeon Jihee fell just one step short of retaining the title she had won two years ago when, at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Spanish Open, she had beaten another adversary from Japan, Sayaka Hirano, to arrest the title.
A contest of high quality played at a fast pace, rapid fire counter attacking exchanges executed close to the table, the first crucial stage of the contest came in the fourth game after Jeon Jihee had established a two games to one advantage. She led 9-6 but then promptly lost the next four points; a golden opportunity to move into a three games to one lead had been missed.
Undoubtedly the recovery was a bonus for Hina Hayata, an injection of confidence. In the fifth game she established a 5-1 lead and never looked back. Immediately Jeon Jihee recovered to capture the sixth game by the narrowest of margins, taking a “Time Out” at 7-all.
Tense times, a seventh game beckoned, Jeon Jihee moved ahead 4-2 but lost the next three points before regaining the lead at 8-7; once again she lost three points in succession, at 10-8 Hina Hayata held two match points.
Jeon Jihee saved the first match point, Hina Hayata elected for “Time Out”, the ploy did have an immediate effect; Jeon Jihee levelled and again when trailing 10-11 saved another match point.
However, on the next match point she could not repeat the feat; Hina Hayata jumped for joy.