Let the games begin! For the next four days, all eyes will be honed in on the Korean city of Incheon, where Table Tennis’s biggest stars are all ready and set to go for glory at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
Come Sunday, champions will be crowned in the Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles, Men’s Doubles, Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles categories. As ever, this is a 100% knockout format from start to finish. No time to lose for those competing looking to end the year in style!
FULLY FOCUSED, FAN ZHENDONG APPROACHES OPENER
Last year’s champion FAN Zhendong (CHN) will start his title defence on Friday (16:05 GMT+9) in the round of 16 against Koki NIWA (JPN). The World no. 1, who is fresh from claiming the 2018 Male Table Tennis Star award on Wednesday night, is not looking any further ahead than his Japanese opponent.
“I’m taking each game at a time,” opened FAN during the pre-tournament press conference. “I’m familiar with Koki’s style of play and I’m just working on being fully prepared for tomorrow’s match.”
WATCH OUT FOR THE WOMEN
It will be business as usual too for CHEN Meng (CHN), who was victorious at the 2017 World Tour Grand Finals in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The 24-year-old star takes on compatriot CHEN Xingtong tonight (19:00) and, at the same time, fellow Chinese talent and top seed WANG Manyu faces FENG Tianwei (SGP). Shortly afterwards (19:50) there’s an all-Japanese duel between Miu HIRANO and Kasumi ISHIKAWA, while rising star Mima ITO (JPN) will look to kick off her tournament brightly against CHENG I-Ching (TPE).
“Mima has developed into a great player,” admitted CHEN Meng when asked about the threat posed by the 18-year-old, who has already built a reputation for overcoming China’s strongest players in recent months.
“However, we’ll be treating her like any other opponent, as we train with the same high level of intensity for each and every challenge.”
MORE FROM THE MEN’S MATCH-UPS
It will be a World Tour Grand Finals Men’s Singles debut for Patrick FRANZISKA (GER), who gets up and running tonight (21:30) against Tomokazu HARIMOTO (JPN).
“Asia is very strong this year with 13 out of 16 representatives in the Men’s Singles competition,” said FRANZISKA. “We Europeans have to work hard in order to have more of us competing at this tournament next year.”
Winner of the 2018 ITTF Star Point award and top seed in Incheon, XU Xin (CHN) kicks off his competition against WONG Chun Ting (HKG). There will be an all-Korean match-up between LIM Jonghoon and JANG Woojin (21:30), while LEE Sangsu (KOR) will too receive the backing of the home crowd against LIN Gaoyuan (CHN).
UNIFIED KOREA ALREADY CAPTURING THE IMAGINATION
All quarter-final matches in the Men’s Doubles, Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles will also be taking place on Thursday at Incheon’s Namdong Gymnasium.
The pick of the action already, Unified Korea pair JANG Woojin (KOR) and CHA Hyo Sim (PRK) have got the home crowd buzzing following their victory over Maharu YOSHIMURA and Kasumi ISHIKAWA (JPN) to reach Friday’s semi-finals (14.00) against fellow Koreas, LIM Jonghoon and YANG Haeun.