by Ian Marshall, Editor
Fan Zhendong starts the clear favourite but for two further players who have secured the top step of the Men’s Singles podium at an ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, the forecast is less clear.
Germany’s Timo Boll, the winner in 2006 in Fuzhou alongside Japan’s Jun Mizutani, successful in 2014 in Bangkok, face Chinese adversaries hungry for success, players aiming to establish themselves amongst their country’s elite. Timo Boll, the no.15 seeds, confronts Liang Jingkun, the no.3 seed, the player against whom he suffered defeat earlier this year at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour China Open.
Likewise, Jun Mizutani, the no.8 seed, is in a similar situation; he meets Liu Dingshuo, the no.13 seed, the young man who caused his downfall in July in Australia.
A tough adversary for Jun Mizutani, it is the same for his colleague, Yuya Oshima, the no.16 seed, the player who gained his place as a result of the withdrawal of China’s Ma Long. He opposes Brazil’s Hugo Calderano, the no.7 seed. Success for Brazil and he will take Latin America to new heights, a quarter-final place will be a first for the continent.
Mouthwatering contests and as the day concludes there are more; in the Women’s Singles event, local interest is high. Suh Hyowon, the no.8 seed, opposes China’s He Zhuoija, the no.12 seed; in the all Chinese duel, Liu Shiwen, the no.3 seed and Sun Yingsha, the no.14 seed, clash.
However, the all Chinese contest that attracts the attention, as the second day of play ends, is the duel between Wang Manyu, the top seed and Chen Meng, the no.6 seed and defending champion; at the recent Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Austria Open Chen Meng beat Wang Manyu in the final.
Similarly, as the day ends in the Men’s Singles event there is considerable host nation interest. Jang Woojin, the no.5 seed, meets Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto, the no.4 in the battle of the former World Junior champions; Jang Woojin won in 2013 in Rabat, Tomokazu Harimoto in 2016 in Cape Town.
Moreover, there is a debt to settle, can the local crowd lift Jang Woojin? Earlier this year at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Japan Open, Tomokazu Harimoto beat Jang Woojin; also there is another player on quarter-final duty in search of revenge. In the fourth round of the Men’s Singles event at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf; in an all-Chinese affair, Lin Gaoyuan held six match points in the vital seventh game against Xu Xin and lost.
They meet at the quarter-final stage in Incheon.