by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
It is the first time that the partnership of Jin Ueda and Maharu Yoshimura has ever appeared in a Grand Finals; for Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima, it is the third and the third time in row.
The second seeds; the status suggests they have the potential to reach the final; if that goal is fulfilled, they will stand alone. No pair has ever reached three consecutive Men’s Doubles finals.
In 2015 in Lisbon, they overcame the host nation’s Tiago Apolonia and João Monteiro in the final; last year in Doha, they were beaten in the title deciding contest by Korea’s Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu.
Appearing in three finals is not new, notably China’s Wang Liqin and Yan Sen achieved the feat but they kept having a year’s break between successes. They won in 1996 at the inaugural tournament in Tianjin in 1998 they succeeded in Paris before in 2000 regaining the title in Kobe.
Notably four pairs have appeared in consecutive Men’s Doubles title deciding contests at the Grand Finals but none compete in Astana, retirement being a principal reason.
China’s Ma Lin and Chen Qi won in 2003 in Guangzhou and 2004 in Beijing; similarly Singapore’s Gao Ning and Li Hu succeeded in 2012 in Hangzhou and in 2013 in Dubai. Reaching the final and winning; for Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus and Germany’s Jörg Rosskopf as for Singapore’s Gao Ning and Yang, it was reaching the final and experiencing defeat. Vladimir Samsonov Jörg Rosskopf were the runners up in both 1996 in Tianjin and 1997 in Hong Kong; Gao Ning and Yang Zi in 2009 in Macao and in Seoul in 2010.
Meanwhile, for Jin Ueda and Maharu Yoshimura, a place in the final at the prestigious end of year tournament, would mean they become the fifth Japanese pairing to achieve the distinction.
In addition to Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima; in 2002 in Beijing, Akira Kito and Toshio Tasaki reached the final, losing to China’s Kong Linghui and Ma Lin. Similarly, in 2012 in Hangzhou and in 2015 in Thailand, Koki Niwa had to settle for runners up spot; in the former in harness with Seiya Kishikawa it was defeat at the hands of Li Hu and Gao Ning, in the latter when joining forces with Kenta Matsudaira, Korea’s Seo Hyundeok and Cho Eonrae ended aspirations.
A place in the final, even the top prize; for Japan the opportunity has never been greater.