by Simon Daish
Making his ITTF World Tour Grand Finals debut on day two of the competition is Kazakhstan’s Kirill Gerassimenko, who begins his Men’s Singles campaign with a tough fixture against Japanese teenage ace Tomokazu Harimoto.
Gerassimenko may enter the tie as the underdog but will be hoping to take full advantage of the home crowd when he takes to the table for the first time.
Day two could decide who becomes the next player to reach top spot in the men’s world rankings table. Dimitrij Ovtcharov will achieve the feat if he emerges victorious in his Round of 16 encounter against Koki Niwa, but it should be noted that in their previous encounter it was the latter competitor who came away with the win.
Simon Gauzy and Vladimir Samsonov of France and Belarus respectively will feature for the first time in Astana with difficult fixtures against Fang Bo and Wong Chun Ting. Will the European representatives prevail or can the Chinese and Hong Kong stars earn opening round victories?
Four matches remain in the last 16 of the Women’s Singles tournament including an all-Japanese encounter between Mima Ito and Sakura Mori.
Seeded fourth for the competition Mima Ito heads into the fixture as the favourite and comfortably saw off her fellow compatriot at the ITTF World Tour event held in Bulgaria in August, but Sakura Mori never goes down without a fight and will be keen to avenge that defeat with a strong display in Astana.
Kasumi Ishikawa is the highest seeded Japanese player on duty in the Women’s Singles category and will begin her journey in Kazakhstan opposing Germany’s Han Ying.
Right at the bottom of the draw there is a decent chance that a quarter-finals meeting between Zhu Yuling and Wang Manyu could be on the horizon but first the Chinese contestants must hold off challenges from Japan’s Hina Hayata and Hitomi Sato.
Following their opening round upset Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-An and Chiang Hung-Chieh are just one win away from reaching the Men’s Doubles final, but can the duo produce another shock result when they take on the second seeds Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima in the penultimate round on day two?
There is also an exciting semi-finals duel brewing in the top half of the Women’s Doubles event with Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Men and Lee Ho Ching set to face top seeds Hina Hayata and Mima Ito.