01 Nov 2018

Captivated, the crowd on the edges of their seats, totally spellbound by the spectacle that unfolded before their eyes, the opening round of the Women’s Singles event at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open on Thursday 1st November, could not have experienced a more dramatic start.

China’s Liu Gaoyang, gold medallist at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games but in Stockholm required to compete in the qualification tournament, eventually overcame the host nation’s Matilda Ekholm, the no.15 seed, emerging successful in a titanic seventh game (9-11, 11-4, 11-9, 11-2, 8-11, 8-11, 18-16).

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Both players had chances, especially Matilda Ekholm; leading 16-15 in the decider, Liu Gaoyang scrambling from side to side to stay in the match, the table at her mercy, the Swede pushed the ball long. The whole of Sweden groaned in agony.

Drama but even more, earlier in the decider at 11-all, Liu Gaoyang attempted a forehand top spin; the return was a trifle short, her racket caught the edge of the table, it needed to be replaced.

“I just cannot describe how I feel, I really am in a daze; the new racket was a little different, it was faster than the one I had been using. Matilda plays at quite a slow pace, at times in the match I was in too much of a hurry; I need more experience in such situations. Today I had to really try to be patient.” Liu Gaoyang.

Success for Liu Gaoyang against seeded opposition; as matters commenced it was the same for Japan’s Miyu Kato and Monaco’s Yang Xiaoxin, likewise players who had been required to compete in the qualification tournament. Miyu Kato beat Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, the no.8 seed (11-5, 11-9, 11-8, 11-5), Yang Xiaoxin thwarted a recovery from Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem, the no.13 seed (11-9, 11-5, 12-10, 8-11, 7-11, 11-9).

“She didn’t play with any power; I was able to control the points. After the third game she changed her tactics, she found answers, she played more slowly.” Yang Xiaoxin

Hard fought wins, as matters progressed it was the same for China’s Zhu Yuling, the top seed as for colleagues, Chen Meng, the no.3 seed and Wang Manyu, the no.5 seed. Zhu Yuling beat Japan’s Saki Shibata (11-5, 11-9, 11-4, 7-11, 11-3), Chen Meng accounted for Hina Hayata, like Saki Shibata from Japan (11-4, 14-16, 12-10, 11-4, 6-11, 11-9), Wang Manyu eventually prevailed against the defensive skills of Germany’s Han Ying (7-11, 13-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 11-9).

Likewise, Korea Republic’s Suh Hyowon, the no.12 seed, accounted for Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova (11-7, 12-10, 11-3, 4-11, 11-7) but the most grueling encounter was that between Japan’s Hitomi Sato, the no.14 seed and DPR Korea’s Kim Song I, the Expedite Rule being introduced with Hitomi Sato leading 4-3 in the fifth game; eventually Hitomi Sato succeeded in six games (11-7, 12-10, 11-3, 4-11, 11-7).

“I didn’t know how I would start the game. At the beginning, I tried to put every ball on the table and reacted to Kim’s actions. I built my tactics according to what is going on at the table; when the expedited system started, I felt more confident because I’m strong at it.” Hitomi Sato

Play in the lower half of the draw continues later in the day.

World Tour 2018 Seamaster Swedish Open Liu Gaoyang

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