by Simon Daish
Occupying the top seeded position and thus her spot at the very summit of the draw, China’s Zhu Yuling is on paper the favourite in the race for Women’s Singles glory yet on Day One in Stockholm she has a big hill to climb. Zhu Yuling lost out to Saki Shibata earlier this year when the ITTF World Tour visited Shenzhen and the unseeded Japanese star is in great form heading into the match – could we be set for a major opening round upset?
Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm joins Zhu Yuling in the upper half of the draw where she will hope to use the home crowd to her full advantage against Liu Guoyang while no.3 seed Chen Meng meets Hina Hayata in a Women’s Singles contest for only the second time on the World Tour.
Placed in the lower half of the draw, Chen Xingtong is the reigning Swedish Open champion and will be looking to open her title defence in style when she meets Korean opponent Jeon Jihee. Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen have also been placed in the same section of the draw with respective encounters against Wang Yidi and Ng Wing Nam.
Seeded first for the Men’s Singles event but Fan Zhendong has been handed a difficult start to life in Sweden. The recently crowned Men’s World Cup champion faces a player he knows well as fellow countryman Liu Dingshuo stands in his path.
Another tie featuring two stars from the same country meeting face-to-face sees no.15 seed Mattias Falck do battle with qualifier Anton Källberg. Two of Sweden’s finest, one will progress and one will fall – with national pride at stake, who will take the plaudits in front of the local spectators?
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Fourth seed Dimitrij Ovtcharov will be somewhat relieved to have been placed in the opposite half of the draw to Fan Zhendong and Ma Long. However, second seed Xu Xin does reside in the same half of the draw as Ovtcharov and the German could be set for a tricky opening to his campaign as England’s Liam Pitchford, a player he lost to in their previous meeting, awaits.
Liam Pitchford will also feature in the Men’s Doubles tournament as he and Paul Drinkhall aim to book their place in the quarter-finals. Awaiting the English duo, however, is China’s Ma Long and Xu Xin, who are be searching for ITTF World Tour title no.10 in Sweden.
Last year, Mima Ito partnered Hina Hayata to a surprise gold medal finish in the Women’s Doubles draw. One year on and Mima Ito is back to defend her title, but this time she will be accompanied by Kasumi Ishikawa – can the Japanese duo get off to a strong start against Indian opponents Manika Batra and Archana Girish Kamath?