by Simon Daish
Required to negotiate the qualification stages, Zhang Jike has been rewarded with a tough opening round fixture in the Men’s Singles draw with Japanese teenage ace Tomokazu Harimoto providing the opposition in the Round of 32. The 14-year-old star has faced Ma Long and Xu Xin in his relatively short career to date, but this is the first time that he will meet Zhang Jike.
Another of the local favourites to be handed a difficult opener is top seed Fan Zhendong: he begins his China Open campaign against Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik, who dropped just the one game throughout the qualifying process. Lin Gaoyuan and Xu Xin will also meet Korean opposition after drawing opening round encounters with Jeong Sangeun and Lim Jonghoon.
England’s Liam Pitchford wowed spectators at the 2018 ITTF Team World Cup earlier this year with a number of impressive victories including one over Brazilian representative Hugo Calderano. The two competitors are destined to do battle yet again in Shenzhen in what is expected to be another exciting contest.
Champion last year when the tournament was hosted in Chengdu, Ding Ning will begin her Women’s Singles title defence against fellow compatriot Che Xiaoxi. Having defeated Li Qian and Cheng Hsien-Tzu in an impressive qualification run, now Che Xiaoxi faces her toughest challenge yet – can she steal the headlines by eliminating Ding Ning at the first hurdle?
Mima Ito and Wu Yang played out a thrilling match at the 2017 ITTF Asian Championships in Wuxi which saw the latter player pull off a dramatic five games victory. In Shenzhen China’s Wu Yang will be looking for another positive result as she prepares to meet her Japanese counterpart in front of the Chinese fans once again.
Second seed Kasumi Ishikawa will attempt to draw level in head-to-head victories against Petrissa Solja when the two meet at the foot of the draw with the Japanese competitor currently trailing her German rival by a 1:2 ratio while at the opposite end of the draw top seed Zhu Yuling faces Minami Ando.