by Simon Daish
Leading the way in the men’s singles event is World no.1 Fan Zhendong while the top three seeded positions are set to be rounded out by Lin Gaoyuan and Xu Xin.
A rising star on the international stage Liang Jingkun is also included in China’s men’s singles plan as is three-time World champion Ma Long, who heads to Sapporo with extra motivation having exited at the quarter-final stage last time out.
Both Ma Long and Zhang Jike were defeated by Japan’s very own Tomokazu Harimoto on his way to a magnificent gold medal finish in front of the home crowd in Kitakyushu – One year on, will China make amends?
In the women’s singles draw Grand Slam winner Ding Ning will be present as will recently crowned World champion Liu Shiwen.
The likes of Chen Meng, Zhu Yuling and last year’s runner-up Wang Manyu have also been entered as China aims to prevent a repeat of the 2018 Japan Open.
Fighting back from three games down the host nation’s Mima Ito pulled off a sensational semi-final comeback victory over Chen Xingtong in Kitakyushu before going on to beat Wang Manyu 4-2 to become the first Japanese player to win the women’s singles title in five years.
Defeated at the final hurdle in both singles categories, the 2018 Japan Open marked the first time China had failed to take home either trophy at the event since 2013! But, expect a strong response next month in Sapporo.
With China fielding a star-studded line-up the stakes for the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum LION Japan Open have been raised even higher, especially with the Olympic Games heading to the Japanese capital of Tokyo next year. While Tokyo 2020 may seem far away, the action in Sapporo could well serve as a foreshadowing of what’s to come on the biggest of stages.