by Ian Marshall, Editor
Success against the odds for Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, in the same group the host nation’s Koki Niwa caused a stir; the no.4 seed, he accounted for Korea Republic’s Lee Sangsu, the no.3 seed (5-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-9).
Performances to attract the attention but they were not necessarily the contests on which eyes were peeled; centre stage was China’s Ma Long versus the Koki Niwa’s colleague, 15 year old Tomokazu Harimoto, the no.2 seed. Could the teenager repeat the success of the last occasion when they had met on Japanese soil, the Seamaster 2019 Lion Japan Open in Kitakyushu in June?
Ma Long, the no.6 seed provided the answers; he prevailed in four games (11-9, 6-11, 11-5, 11-8).
“Last year at the Japan Open, I lost to him. So this year I came here with fully prepared. He is the biggest opponent of Team China now. Last year we met in the Japan Open, I was 0-3 down at the beginning; this time I entered into a match rhythm much quicker than last year.” Ma Long
Impressive from Ma Long, in the same group it was impressive from Chinese Taipei’s 17 year old Lin Yun-Jun; he beat Sharath Kamal Achanta, the no.11 seed (10-12, 11-6, 11-9, 11-8), the player Sathiyan Gnanasekaran is gradually replacing as India’s leading player.
Two upsets and there was one more; in the regional group, Thailand’s Supanut Wisutmaythangkoon, listed at no.111 on the current men’s world rankings, accounted for Iran’s Nima Alamian, named at no.60 (11-8, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9); thus with the absence of Sri Lanka’s Imesh Ranasingha, he secured first place in the group. Earlier in the day he had beaten Qatar’s Mohammed Abdulwahhab (13-11, 11-13, 11-5, 11-5).
Top spot assured for Supanut Wisutmaythangkoon; for China’s Fan Zhendong, the top seed, he took a major stride to emulating the 22 year old from Thailand. He beat Korea Republic’s Jang Woojin, the no.5 seed in four games (11-6, 11-8, 6-11, 11-8); in the same group, Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting, the no.7 seed, overcame Kazakhstan’s Kirill Gerassimenko, the no.16 seed (11-7, 12-14, 11-6, 11-4).
The concluding series of matches in the first stage of the men’s event will be enacted later in the day.