by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Unquestionably, Australia is the dominant force. David Powell is the second seed in the Men’s Singles competition with compatriot Heming Hu being the top name; in the counterpart Women’s Singles event, Jian Fang Lay heads the list, Melissa Tapper is the next in line.
Medals for Australia proved elusive at the recent Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, the exception being in Women’s Para Class 6-10 when Melissa Tapper won gold and bronze finished in the possession of Andrea McDonnell; however, one of the lasting memories of the splendidly organised event is the spirit in which Heming Hu warmed to the task.
No player fought harder for the national cause and could the high energy secure him the Oceania Cup title? He is due.
In the Women’s Singles event, the threat to the defending champion is somewhat different; can Melissa Tapper, on whom internationally we first set eyes at the 2004 World Junior Championships in Kobe, have the patience and know-how to overcome the close to the table combination racket blocking style of 45 year old Jian Fang Lay?
Melissa Tapper is now an experienced international player; the time has surely come for a hand over of the baton.
Australia present in force; it is the same for New Zealand, the one other large land mass in the continent. Dean Shu and Matthew Ball appear in the Men’s Singles event; Cheng Zhiying and Natalie Paterson are on duty in the Women’s Singles competition.
Challengers for honours but there is little recent evidence to suggest they can upset the Australians.
Likewise, the host island’s Yoshua Shing, a young man who attracted attention at the 2005 ITTF World Cadet Challenge in the Dominican Republic, is on duty in the Men’s Singles event, as is Stephanie Qwea in the Women’s Singles competition. Present at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games, there was no lack of endeavour from Yoshua Shing but in the Men’s Singles event he did not advance beyond the group phase. Can home advantage lift the now 24 year old?
In both the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles events, there are two groups in the initial stage, each with four players; the players finishing in the first three positions in each group advance to the main draw.
All matches are best of seven games.