by Simon Daish
If you had asked heading into the tournament which of the qualifiers representing China had the best chance of reaching the quarter-finals of the Men’s Singles event, many would have gone for the obvious answer of Zhang Jike but rather astonishingly it is the currently unranked Zhou Qihao who has achieved that goal in Hong Kong.
Victorious in the opening two rounds against Jonathan Groth and Patrick Franziska, who were seeded seventh and 11th respectively, now Zhou Qihao will face fellow qualifier Jon Persson in what has all the makings of an absolute thriller.
The winner of the tie will go on to meet one of Japan’s Maharu Yoshimura or Korea Republic’s Cho Seungmin in the last four: spectators have already witnessed 10th seed Bastian Steger fall to Cho Seungmin at an earlier stage of the competition, is it the turn of ninth seed Maharu Yoshimura to suffer the same fate?
Two further athletes competing for Korea Republic are present in the opposite half of the draw with Lim Jonghoon taking on No.4 seed Marcos Freitas before Lee Sangsu meets Japanese opponent Kazuhiro Yoshimura.
Crowned Women’s Singles champion at the recent 2018 ITTF Challenge Thailand Open, China’s Liu Shiwen remains on course to replicate that success in Hong Kong but first she has the small task of negotiating what could prove to be a tricky quarter-finals tie. He Zhuojia heads into the match off the back of two major upsets against Doo Hoi Kem and Feng Tianwei but can she secure her biggest shock yet and beat Liu Shiwen?
Day three will mark the very first meeting on the international stage between China’s Wang Manyu and Korea Republic’s Suh Hyowon: offering two contrasting approaches to the game, spectators can expect a fine display of attack against defence in this must watch encounter.
Elsewhere, Lee Eunhye will be looking to end the progress of a seeded player for the third consecutive round when she meets fifth seed Mima Ito while Chen Xingtong and Zhang Rui contest an all-Chinese duel.