23 Mar 2018

Just over one month ago in Oman, the silver medal was the lot of China’s Xu Haidong; he was beaten in hard fought final by colleague, Yuan Licen; now one month later in Lignano on Thursday 22nd March at the 2018 Lignano Junior and Cadet Open, it was a reversal of fortunes.

For Xu Haidong, a young man who keeps the pen-hold grip alive, it was gold, for Yuan Licen the colour of the medal was bronze.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

The top seed, at the final hurdle Xu Haidong, a member of the Chinese team at the 2017 World Junior Championships, accounted for compatriot Yu Heyi, the no.8 seed and the winner earlier this year in Hodonin at the Czech Junior and Cadet Open.

Just as in Oman, when he had lost by the very narrowest of seven games margins at the final hurdle to Yu Licen (11-5, 5-11, 11-8, 11-13, 13-11, 9-11, 11-9), he prevailed in a contest that was equally on the proverbial knife-edge to the very last point (17-15, 11-4, 11-13, 11-7, 7-11, 9-11, 12-10).

Success by the narrowest of margins, at the semi-final stage life was only marginally less exacting. After recording a quarter-final win over Poland’s Artur Grela, the no.5 seed (11-7, 11-4, 11-7, 11-6), he needed six games to overcome compatriot, Xiang Peng (9-11, 11-6, 11-5, 9-11, 11-4, 11-7), a young man in impressive form. In the previous round, he had beaten Frenchman, Jules Rolland, the no.3 seed, in straight games (11-7, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6).

Meanwhile in the opposite half of the draw, in the later rounds, at the quarter-final stage, Yu Heyi had also ended Polish hopes. He had beaten Samuel Kulczycki (11-8, 8-11, 15-13, 11-7, 11-6), the player who had ended the hopes of the host nation in the third round; contrary to expectations he had beaten Carlo Rossi the no.4 seed (11-8, 8-11, 15-13, 11-7, 11-6).

A semi-final place secured, Yu Heyi overcame Yu Licen (7-11, 11-1, 11-5, 11-9, 8-11, 11-6), to secure his final reservation. Notably, in round three Yu Licen had beaten Irvin Bertrand of France, the no.2 seed, (11-5, 9-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7), prior overcoming Russia’s Lev Katsman in the quarter-finals (11-4, 12-10, 11-7, 15-13).

Disappointment for Yu Heyi and Yuan Licen but there was compensation; they won the Junior Boys’ Doubles title beating the French combination of Lilian Bardet and Jukes Rolland at the final hurdle (11-8, 11-7, 11-4).

Play now continues with the Junior Boys’ and Cadet Boys’ Team events.

World Junior Circuit 2018 Italian Junior & Cadet Open Xu Haidong

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