by Ian Marshall, Editor
Undoubtedly each belied their current world rankings; Tomislav Pucar is listed at no.70, Masataka Morizono at no.45.
At the immediately preceding Seamaster 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open in Muscat, Tomislav Pucar progressed to the semi-final stage of the men’s singles event, notably beating India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta and Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan, both players who have ITTF World Tour titles to their name, notably in 2003 Chuang Chih-Yuan winning at the Grand Finals.
Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju, the champion elect, ended the journey but not after the Croatian had given the 17 year old a real fright; Lin Yun-Ju emerged successful in a full distance duel (11-4, 11-7, 13-15, 8-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-8).
Three days later in Doha, Tomislav Pucar was on fire; in the third preliminary round of the men’s singles event he beat China’s Wang Chuqin (11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-7), before ousting England’s Liam Pitchford in a titanic struggle (11-6, 8-11, 11-7, 11-8, 10-12, 11-13, 12-10).
Most creditable wins against players of high pedigree, two months ago at the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open, Wang Chuqin had finished the runner up but note the player he beat in the penultimate round, his colleague, a certain Fan Zhendong. Is he not favourite for gold in Budapest?
So if Tomislav Pucar can beat Wang Chuqin and Wang Chuqin can beat Fan Zhendong, does that not make Tomislav Pucar the favourite? Logical but sometimes that train of thought does not work out.
Equally, note the status of Liam Pitchford; at no.17 the highest ranked player on qualification stage duty.
Tall, right handed, effective top spin play from backhand and forehand a step back from the table is the forte of Tomislav Pucar; Masataka Morizono is very different, left handed, quicksilver, it is his speed that counts.
In January he won the one place available at the Japanese national team selection tournament to secure a flight to Budapest. Notably in the preliminary stage in Doha he beat Slovenia’s irrepressible Bojan Tokic (11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-7), before ousting Portugal’s Marcos Freitas, listed at no.24 on the current men’s world rankings (11-9, 14-12, 11-9, 11-8). Masataka Morizono is named at no.45.
Could Masataka Morizono cause upsets and progress in Budapest? He is in form and he is no stranger to the later rounds, two years ago when partnering Yuya Oshima, he was the men’s doubles runner up.