by Ian Marshall, Editor
The achievements of Tomokazu Harimoto and Miu Hirano, the career wins over China’s elite are now very much part of table tennis folklore as are the efforts of Sun Yingsha, the winner of the Women’s Singles title at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Japan Open and then, later in the year, in Riva del Garda crowned World Junior champion.
Perhaps, Wang Chuqin has not hit the limelight to the same extent but his performance earlier this year at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open, suggests that his level of play belies his seeding in Buenos Aires. Notably in Budapest, in the Men’s Singles event, he beat Germany’s Ricardo Walther, the Chinese Taipei duo of Chuang Chih-Yuan and Chen Chien-An before accounting for colleague Liu Singshuo to reserve his place in the final.
It was at that stage adventures came to a conclusion, he was beaten by the young man who won four years ago in Nanjing; he was beaten by the player he aims to emulate in the South America city, his colleague, Fan Zhendong.
China and Japan, once again favourites for places on the podium but they are not the only national associations from Asia fielding players who have realistic medal hopes; one player in particular stands out.
Note the name: Lin Yun-Ju from Chinese Taipei. The 17 year old is a very special talent, a fact underlined on this year’s Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour. He has three Under 21 Men’s Singles titles to his credit; he won in Budapest, Panagyurishte and in Hong Kong.
In Buenos Aires, he is the no.4 seed and partners colleague Su Pei-Ling in the Mixed Team competition; she is the Women’s Singles no.3 seed; on three fronts Chinese Taipei are contenders for honours.
However, Su Pei-Ling has yet to really shine this year, at the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships in August, she was beaten in the opening round of the Junior Girls’ Singles event by Japan’s Miyuu Kihara; on the ITTF World Junior Circuit, her best finish is the semi-final round, she reached that stage on home soil as well as in Hong Kong and Thailand.
There is a most positive challenge from Chinese Taipei but also note Thailand in the guise of Yanapong Panagitgun and Jinippa Sawettabut; meanwhile Iran’s Amin Ahmadian has been in form this year as have Singapore’s Pang Yew En Koen, and Korea Republic’s Cho Seungmin.
Most recently on the ITTF World Junior Circuit, Jinippa Swettabut won the Junior Girls’ Singles title in Serbia, earlier in the year Amin Ahmadian was crowned Junior Boys’ Singles champion in Tunisia, a feat matched by Pang Yen En Koen in the Cook Islands. It is a step this year Yanapong Panagitgun has yet to make but he has come close; he was the runner in Paraguay and Serbia. Meanwhile in March, a result of arguably greater relevance, Cho Daeseong reached the semi-final stage of the Men’s Singles event at the ITTF Challenge Polish Open.
In Buenos Aires, Jinnipa Sawettabut is the no.10 seed in the Women’s Singles event; in the counterpart Men’s Singles competition, Pang Yew En Koen is the no.10 seed, Amin Ahmadian, the no.12 seed, Yanapong Panagitgun, the no.13 seed and Cho Daeseong the no.29 seed.