by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
The penultimate round place for Masataka Morizono is no great surprise, he is the no.3 seed and on the ITTF World Tour in 2014 reached the Men’s Singles final in Spain, losing to England’s Paul Drinkhall.
Conversely, Hibiki Tazoe, who started proceedings in the qualification tournament, has no such pedigree.
Earlier this year he competed in the ITTF Challenge Series events in both Poland and Slovenia; in Poland he could count himself somewhat unfortunate. He finished in second place in his group behind Ukraine’s Yaroslav Zmudenko but did beat Ewout Oostwouder of the Netherlands, the highest rated player in the group. Games ratio decided his fate.
No place in the main draw in Poland; that was not the situation in Slovenia. He finished in first position in his group ahead of the host nation’s Jan Zibrat and Frenchman Leo de Nodrest. A place in the main draw booked, he accounted for the Czech Republic’s Tomas Konecny and Belgium’s Martin Allegro before losing in the third round to Chinese Taipei’s Liao Cheng-Ting.
“I didn’t expect to get this far, so I feel happy. Before the match started I studied at my opponent’s match on Youtube and tried to figure out his weakness. In the game, I found that it helped me win a lot of points.” Hibiki Tazoe
Creditable results but I suggest not outcomes that prophesised a semi-final place on his next international venture.
Likewise, the appearance of Xu Ruifeng in the opposite half of the draw is somewhat of a surprise; minimal international experience but he was a member of the Sichuan team that gained a podium finish at the 2017 China Games.
In Bangkok, at the semi-final stage he beat Chinese Taipei’s Yang Heng-Wei, the no.15 seed (11-7, 11-9, 8-11, 11-4, 11-9) and now meets top seed, Kazalkstan’s Kirill Gerassimenko in the semi-final.
Impressively, Kirill Gerassimenko beat Hong Kong qualifier, Su Zhi (10-12, 11-8, 11-4, 11-9, 13-11) to reserve his last four place.
The semi-final programme, commencing with the Women’s Singles event, is set to start at 11.00 am (local time), on Sunday 20th May.