by Ian Marshall, Editor
The no.2 seed, as opposed to Lin Yun-Ju who is the no.9 seed, Tomokazu Harimoto starts as the arguable favourite. Notably, in their one prior meeting on the international scene, the semi-final round of the men’s singles event at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games last November, the decision went in favour of Tomokazu Harimoto. However, it was close; the contest needed the full seven games to reach a decision.
Balancing those facts, if there is one player in form at the moment, it is Lin Yun-Ju. Just under two weeks ago at the Seamaster 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open, he won the men’s singles title; before last week at the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open reaching the quarter-final stage.
Most significantly, note the names of the players he beat in Doha. Required to qualify, in the opening round he overcame Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting before ending the hopes of Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov; eventually, China’s Lin Gaoyuan, the eventual runner up ended progress but he needed six games.
A testing encounter and both young men have a chance to test themselves. In the same group appears China’s Ma Long, the reigning Olympic and World champion alongside India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta, pivotal to his country’s success last year at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
Following his success in Qatar, Ma Long starts as the favourite but there can be no room for complacency; it is the same for his colleague, Fan Zhendong, the top seed and defending champion. He will be well of aware of last year in Yokohama when after beating Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan, he suffered at the hands of Tomokazu Harimoto. Now in 2019, he is drawn in the same group as Korea Republic’s Jang Woojin, Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting and Kazakhstan’s Kirill Gerassimenko.
A test for Wong Chun Ting, it is the same for Korea Republic’s Lee Sangu, the no.3 seed; similarly he experienced an opening round exit last week in Qatar when beaten by the Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek. In Yokohama he is drawn in the same group as Japan’s Koki Niwa, Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan and India’s Sathiyan Gnanasekaran.
The immediate goal in both the men’s and women’s event, in each of the three groups, is second position; thus a place in the quarter-finals. Guaranteed progress, for the players who finish in third places the door is still open, a preliminary round which involves the winner of the regional group to determine the two remaining last eight spots is staged.
Favourite, in the regional group is Iran’s Nima Alamian; Thailand’s Supanut Wisutmaythangkoon provides the main opposition with Sri Lanka’s Imesh Ranasingha and Qatar’s Mohammed Abdulwahhab completing the line-up.
All matches in the first stage, including the play-off round are best of five games; best of seven commences with the quarter-finals.