by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
A close first game, matters level at 9-all; the Koreans captured the next two points to take a vital early lead.
Vital but in the overall context of the match, the second game was even more vital. Barbora Balazova and Hana Matelova established a lead but at 7-6 it was down to one point. Understandably they called “Time Out”. It appeared a most prudent move, they won the next two points to move ahead 9-6 but they were never able to capitalise on the advantage.
Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun responded; four points in succession, they led 10-9; Barbora Balazova and Hana Matelova saved the first game point, not the second.
Two close games both in favour of the Koreans, the third game was no different; at 8-all and at 9-all it was parity before at 10-9 Barbora Balazova and Hana Matelova held game point. It was an opportunity, there was not to be another. Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun levelled before at 11-10 and 12-10 holding match points. At the second attempt they converted.
Notably overall, including the ITTF World Tour and ITTF Challenge Series, it was the 16th appearance in a Women’s Doubles final for Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun as a partnership. They have now won eight times; the most recent prior to Spala, being last being last year in Spain when they beat India’s Manika Batra and Mouma Das to secure the title.
Some differently for Barbora Balazova and Hana Matelova it was their first such final, judging by their performance in Spala and last week in Doha at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open when the safely negotiated the preliminary rounds before losing the second seeds, Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem and Lee Ho Ching, there is more to come from the European pairing.
They can take heart.