by Ian Marshall, Editor
At the semi-final stage of the Men’s Doubles event Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu meet Jang Woojin and Lim Jonghoon; in the Mixed Doubles Lim Jonghoon and Jang Woojin are at the opposite ends of the table. Lim Jonghoon partners Yang Haeun against what is rapidly becoming the most celebrated partnership of the modern era, that of Jang Woojin and DPR Korea’s Cha Hyo Sim.
Meanwhile, in the Women’s Doubles, Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun oppose Japan’s Hina Hayata and Mima Ito.
Contests involving compatriots always have an extra degree of uncertainly but I would suggest that Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu have an added degree of motivation. Not only the fact that they won the title in 2016 in Qatar provides an incentive; there is the added fact that for Jeoung Youngsik it is the only event for which he qualified in Incheon. Meanwhile on the opening day of action for Lee Sangsu it was two matches played; two defeats. In the Mixed Doubles, partnering Jeon Jihee, it was a reverse at the hands of Japan’s Masataka Morizono and Mima Ito; in the Men’s Singles China’s Lin Gaoyuan ended aspirations.
Motivation but the most motivated pair of all must be Jang Woojin and DPR Korea’s Cha Hyo Sim; in the opening round they beat Japan’s Maharu Yoshimura and Kasumi Ishikawa, the reigning World champions. Furthermore, success and place in the history books is reserved for Cha Hyo Sim; no player from DPR Korea has ever competed in a final at the Grand Finals.
Somewhat differently for Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun; should they reach the final; they will be the first pair from Korea Republic to secure a place in the gold medal contest for a decade. The most recent occasion was in Macao in 2008 when at the final hurdle Kim Kyungah and Park Miyoung experienced defeat at the hands of Singapore’s Li Jiawei and Sun Beibei.
However, a stiff task awaits; they meet Japan’s Hina Hayata and Mima Ito in the penultimate round. Earlier this year at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour German Open, the pair met in the final, Hina Hayata and Mima Ito prevailed.
Similarly in the opposite half of the Women’s Doubles draw, familiar foes meets, in all Chinese affair Chen Xingtong and Sun Yingsha face Chen Ke and Wang Manyu. It will be their fourth meeting on the international scene this year. Chen Xingtong and Sun Yingsha won in Budapest and Hong Kong; Chen Ke and Wang Manyu succeeded in Doha.
Japan in evidence; in both the Mixed Doubles and Men’s Doubles it is the same with, in both disciplines, Masataka Morizono and Wong Chun Ting at opposite sides of the net.
In the Mixed Doubles Masataka Morizono and Mima Ito meet Wong Chun Ting and Hong Kong colleague, Doo Hoi Kem, an intriguing contest, but top of the list is the Men’s Doubles. A repeat of last year’s final Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima face Ho Kwan Kit and Wong Chun Ting.
In Astana Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima won; earlier this year on home soil, Ho Kwan Kit and Wong Chun Ting turned the tables.
Enthralling matches and as the second day of action starts, two more can be added, both involving Japanese players who face prodigious tasks against Chinese adversaries. In the first round of the Women’s Singles event Hitomi Sato faces Zhu Yuling, Saki Shibata confronts Ding Ning.