by Ian Marshall, Editor
A contrast in the way they hold the racket, Shunsuke Togami the shake-hands grip player, Zhang Zihao, the pen-holder but otherwise very similar in style, both being right handed and delighting in top spin exchanges, it was Shunsuke Togami who on his third attempt, secured the opening game.
Throughout the first game there had been little to choose; it was very much the same at the start of the second; matters were level at 6-all, until Zhao Zihao hit a golden streak to win the next five points.
Undoubtedly, the run of success gave Zhao Zihao a boost of confidence; he dominated the third game before establishing a 6-4 lead in the fourth. Shunsuke Togami levelled at 6-all but never gained an advantage, at 10-7, Zhao Zihao held three game points; he succeeded at the second attempt.
Immediately Shunsuke Togami responded, he won the first three points of the fifth game, he established a 9-7 lead, at 10-8, he held game points. Zhao Zihao won the next point after an exhilarating rally. Shunsuke Togami called “Time Out”. The break proved fruitful by not after Zhao Zhihao had levelled matters, before losing the next two points.
A recovery imminent from Shunsuke Togami, it was not to happen; in the sixth game after sharing the opening four points, Zhao Zihao seized control, he surrendered just two further points, claiming victory at the first time of asking.
Disappointment for Shunsuke Togami, who just over three weeks ago had retained his Under 21 Men’s Singles title at the 2018 ITTF Challenge Belgium Open but it was the first time he had ever progressed beyond the opening round of a Men’s Singles event at an open international tournament.
Incredibly for Zhao Zihao, in only his third such appearance, his previous excursions being on the ITTF World Tour in 2016 in Sweden and earlier this year in Bulgaria; prior to the previous day, it was the first time, in any event, he advanced beyond the qualification stage.
Incredibly making his first appearance at an ITTF Challenge Series tournament, he departed with two titles!