by Simon Daish
Against expectations, Kim Youjin strikes gold
Entering the Under 21 Women’s Singles event in the qualification stages Korea Republic’s Kim Youjin defied the odds, beating top seed Miyu Nagasaki in a thrilling semi-final contest before going on to lift the first trophy on offer in De Haan with a 3-1 win against fellow qualifier Ayhika Mukherjee (11-5, 11-9, 5-11, 11-6).
“I am very happy with this title in Belgium; this is the first time that I have won an Under 21 tournament on the international scene. I hope to improve my level and win more matches and tournaments at senior level in the future.” Kim Yoojin
Winner at last year’s event, Japan’s Shunsuke Togami has once again been presented the Under 21 Men’s Singles trophy in Belgium after the no.12 seed accounted for surprise finalist Andrei Putuntica in an epic meeting which was forced right down to the wire (8-11, 6-11, 15-13, 11-7, 11-2).
Brave effort but impressive run comes to an end
Defeat in the final of the Under 21 tournament but Ayhika Mukherjee continued to impress in the Women’s Singles event with the Indian star earning another shock win to her name, this time at the expense of seventh seed Dina Meshref (11-9, 11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 11-8). However, a straight games defeat at the hands of Japan’s Saki Shibata (11-5, 11-3, 11-5, 11-4) brought Mukherjee’s amazing run to a halt.
Miyu Nagasaki awaits top seed Saki Shibata in the penultimate round following another successful day at the office for the no.4 seed. Opening her day’s work with a convincing win over no.16 seed Sarah De Nutte (13-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-6), Japan’s Nagasaki later fought back from two games down to see off no.22 seed Yang Xiaoxin 4-2 (7-11, 7-11, 11-1, 11-8, 11-5, 11-8).
In the lower half of the draw, 14-year-old Korean ace Shin Yubin produced a standout performance to eliminate second seed Matilda Ekholm from the competition (10-12, 5-11, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 11-4, 11-9) before backing it up with another superb display against no.11 seed Nina Mittelham (11-4, 7-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-6) to set up a semi-finals meeting with Honoka Hashimoto.
14 year old Shin Yubin 🇰🇷 has continued to upset the seedings! Coming from qualification, she has now beaten Odo Satsuki, Matilda Ekholm & Nina Mittleham to make the Semifinals of the 2018 #ITTFChallenge Belgium Open 😱😱
CHECKOUT some of the best point in her latest match! 🏓 pic.twitter.com/gCtF2bN2Y0
— ITTF World (@ittfworld) 26 October 2018
Qualifiers dig in as seeds continue to fall
Qiu Dang has reached his first ITTF Challenge Series Men’s Singles semi-final after winning back-to-back fixtures on Day Two despite having to fight back from behind in both matches.
England’s Sam Walker was the first player to fall victim to the German qualifier after the no.15 seed failed to take advantage of an early lead (9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-5, 11-6) and it was similar news for Leo De Nodrest with Qiu Dang recovering from 0-2 down to come out on top 4-2 against the French competitor (3-11, 1-11, 11-2, 11-8, 11-8, 11-4).
“I am one of the surprises of the tournament. The match against De Nodrest was difficult. In no time I was two-nil down in games. I stayed calm and thought about better tactics. After, I played way better and won all the following games. It’s fantastic that I am in the semi-final. Tomorrow I will give my best and try to win the tournament.” Qiu Dang
Occupying the other spot in the top half of the semi-finals draw is Korea Republic’s Park Ganghyeon: trailing by a 0-1 deficit, Park Ganghyeon went on to beat Hong Kong’s Su Zhi by a 4-1 score-line (7-11, 15-13, 11-9, 11-3, 11-8) and finished the stronger player in his quarter-finals match against no.7 seed Darko Jorgic (2-11, 14-12, 3-11, 9-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-8) to keep his title ambitions alive.
Two further Korean players participated in the last eight but both experienced disappointment as An Jaehyun and Cho Seungmin lost out by the narrowest of margins in their respective encounters with the host nation’s Cedric Nuytinck (11-9, 6-11, 11-2, 11-4, 5-11, 8-11, 13-11) and Japan’s Yukiya Uda (11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 11-6, 7-11, 6-11, 11-9).
Luxembourg duo keep European hopes alive
Ni Xialian and Sarah De Nutte are the sole partnership from Europe left remaining across the two doubles events after the Luxembourg players combined to beat Hungary’s Dora Madarasz and Bernadett Balint (11-4, 11-4, 11-8) in the last four of the Women’s Doubles draw. The top seeded pairing of Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm and Hungary’s Georgina Pota fell to Japan’s Saki Shibata and Satsuki Odo.
Mexico’s Marcos Madrid and Paraguay’s Marcelo Aguirre won’t be appearing in the Men’s Doubles final after suffering a five games defeat to fellow qualifiers Kakeru Sone and Yuta Tanaka (11-9, 11-8, 2-11, 9-11, 11-7). The Japanese pair will do battle with Korea’s An Jaehyun and Cho Seungmin for the title.