24 Feb 2018

The most dramatic contest ever in the history of the ITTF Team World Cup, which first saw the light of day in 1990; the duel between Japan and Korea at the semi-final stage of the Men’s event in London’s Copper Box arena on the evening of Saturday 24th February, beyond any shadow of a doubt, merited that accolade.

Lee Sangsu saved two match points again Tomokazu Harimoto to level matters at two matches apiece; then Jin Ueda saved no less than five match points against Jeong Sangeun to seal a sensational three matches to two win for Japan.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager

In the vital fifth game of the crucial fifth match, Jin Ueda trailed 6-10; he won the next point. Jeong Sangeun called “Time Out”, it was a decision to regret. Jin Ueda levelled at 10-all; then held match points on two occasions, before saving one more, prior to winning three in a row to secure victory (12-10, 5-11, 6-11, 11-6, 16-14).

“It was the last match, I had to do my job; sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, today I won.” Jin Ueda

A cool head from Jin Ueda in the concluding match, it was the same in the opening contest in harness with Koki Niwa against Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangu. A deciding fifth game was needed, a good start was required. Koki Niwa and Jin Ueda made the best start possible.

They won the first six points before Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu responded, the Koreans taking a “Time Out” after losing the first three points. A gap had been created, the advantage was never relinquished. Japan held the early advantage (13-11, 6-11, 10-12, 11-9, 11-5).

“It’s my first time to play in the Team World Cup and I was well aware that I would be playing doubles, so I have been practising; in the fifth game after the “Time Out” we made some changes and fortunately they worked.” Jin Ueda

Success for Korea, in the battle of the two players who have been crowned World Junior champions, Tomokazu Harimoto in 2016 in Cape Town and Jeong Sangeun in 2007 in Palo Alto, it was the more recent winner who emerged successful.

Vocal as always but pertinently most effective using the modern day backhand return of service from all parts, forearm vertical, wrist relaxed, the so called “banana”, Tomokazu Harimoto overcame Jeong Sangeun in four games (11-9, 11-9, 8-11, 11-7).

“My backhand banana flick return of service is my strongest weapon; it was close today in the first two games at 9-all, I just tried to keep focused and made sure I put the ball on the table.” Tomokazu Harimoto

Japan in the ascendancy, Jeoung Youngsik gave Korea a ray of hope; he beat Koki Niwa in four games (7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9), the crucial stage being in the third game when at 10-9 Jeoung Youngsik elected for “Time Out”, after having led 7-2; the break worked.

“Koki Niwa is left handed, his services were difficult to read; I tried to direct my play towards his backhand. I know Koki Niwa well, we have played since junior days, it’s always difficult.” Jeoung Youngsik

A tense contest but not when compared with the next. Lee Sangsu lost the first two games against Tomokazu Harimoto before recovering to win the next three to level the overall match score. In the third game he save two match points before in the fifth game he went ahead, 7-6 the moment at which Tomokazu Harimoto called “Time Out”.

Tomokazu Harimoto won the next two points but he won no more, four in a row for Lee Sangsu, it was parity (8-11, 6-11, 11-2, 16-14, 11-8).

“Tomokazu Harimoto is much younger than me, I had to take some risks; I’m pleased with how I played, now I support Jeong Sangeun.” Lee Sangsu

Matters level, one day earlier  Jeong Sangeun had been in exactly the same situation in the contest against France; on that occasion against Quentin Robinot he prevailed in straight games, he needed to repeat the feat to guide Korea to the final. He fell agonisingly short.

China awaits in the title decider; the fixture is scheduled for 3.00pm (local time) on Sunday 25th February.

World Cup 2018 ITTF Team World Cup Jin Ueda

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Day 4 - 2018 ITTF Team World Cup