LIN Gaoyuan celebrated the Men’s Singles title and WANG Yidi won Women’s Singles gold after the partnerships of CHEN Ke & MU Zi and LIN Gaoyuan & LIANG Jingkun tasted success in the Women’s and Men’s Doubles respectively.
Their victories meant that four of the five trophies available went the way of China after Chinese Taipei duo LIN Yun-Ju and CHENG I-Ching had wrapped up the Mixed Doubles title on Saturday for the second successive week following their China Open triumph.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES
China won both Singles titles on Sunday at the expense of Japan’s leading lights, Tomokazu HARIMOTO and Mima ITO, thus dashing their rivals’ very real hopes of claiming silverware at an event where all of Japan’s top players were taking part. On the contrary, many of China’s biggest names were rested in view of next week’s ITTF World Tour Platinum, Japan Open.
One obvious exception though was LIN Gaoyuan, nicknamed ‘The Dark Knight’. The top seed in Hong Kong and world no.2 held his nerve to beat 2nd seed HARIMOTO, coming from 2-1 down to secure victory over six games (11-3, 7-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-7).
The result meant that LIN avenged his defeat to 15-year-old HARIMOTO in the final of the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Incheon, Korea Republic, whilst taking his tally of ITTF World Tour titles to three in his career and two in 2019 alone following victory in January’s Hungarian Open.
“I am delighted with the win. This was a very tough final, but I was well prepared. Playing in Hong Kong feels like half a home court to me, it certainly helped with all those fans rooting for me during the match. Despite winning this title, I still have a lot of areas of my game that I would like to improve on and play even better in the upcoming events.” Lin Gaoyuan
For HARIMOTO, Sunday’s final proved to be one bridge too far after the teenager had impressed in the previous rounds against ZHOU Yu (CHN), Jun MIZUTANI (JPN) and Quadri ARUNA (NGR), dropping just two games between the round of 16 and semi-final stage.
“I think I played OK today, but I could not quite hold my nerve in the fifth game. I knew that it was important to take that fifth game, but perhaps I was overthinking things. I did not win at the China Open or Hong Kong Open, so I obviously I want to achieve victory next week in Japan.” Tomokazu Harimoto
JAPAN’S STAR WOMEN STUMBLE
In the Women’s Singles competition, Japanese expectations of glory were understandably even higher, with 2nd seed ITO the favourite to defeat qualifier WANG Yidi in Sunday’s final.
However, the Chinese representative, ranked 46th in the world, played nothing like the so-called underdog, as she brushed aside world no.7 ITO in four routine games (11-3, 11-7, 11-5, 11-6).
The result completed a disappointing week for Japan’s star women’s players, as top seed Kasumi ISHIKAWA was sent crashing out in the round of 16 by the very same WANG Yidi, who also recorded a straight games victory over 3rd seed CHENG I-Ching (TPE) in the semi-final.
Few could argue that WANG’s gold medal in Hong Kong – her very first Women’s Singles title on the ITTF World Tour – was not richly deserved.
CHINA DO THE DOUBLE IN THE DOUBLES
Success for China extended to the Women’s and Men’s Doubles competitions, despite their inferior rankings in both finals.
Seeded 7th in Hong Kong, CHEN Ke and MU Zi (CHN) came from behind to beat 4th seeds JEON Jihee and YOO Eunchong (KOR) and thus claim their very first trophy as a pair (9-11, 11-1, 11-4, 11-5).
“I have learnt a lot from my partnership with Mu Zi. She is older than me (30 years compared to the 22 of Chen Ke) and hence more experienced. I often felt like being led by a big sister at times.” Chen Ke
Having faced one another in Saturday’s Men’s Singles semi-final (a 4-1 victory for LIN Gaoyuan), the duo of LIN and LIANG Jingkun (CHN) linked up on Sunday in the Men’s Doubles final.
The 5th seeds were also forced to stage a comeback in their victory over JANG Woojin and LIM Jonghoon (KOR) after the 3rd seeds claimed the first game before their Chinese counterparts won the next three (6-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-8) to secure their first gold medal success as a pair on the ITTF World Tour.
“I think we played really well. We had paired up a few times already. Our understanding today was very good and that was the key to us winning. We are going to take part in the Japan Open next and our aim will be to win again.” Liang Jingkun
The Mixed Doubles title went the way of Chinese Taipei duo LIN Yun-Ju and CHENG I-Ching, who made light work of LEE Sangsu and CHOI Hyojoo (KOR) with an emphatic straight games victory (11-8, 11-3, 11-7) on Saturday. Champions at this month’s China and Hong Kong Opens, the pair will now be aiming for their third success at consecutive events at next week’s Japan Open
NEXT UP: JAPAN!
Wednesday 12 June will see the start of the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum, Japan Open in Sapporo.
Star names and spectacular table tennis are in store for the third ITTF World Tour event in as many weeks, which you can follow on ITTF.com, itTV and ITTF social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube and Weibo.