by Ian Marshall, Editor
At the recent Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest, An Jaehyun excelled all expectations to reach the semi-final stage of the men’s singles event; now if he can negotiate the opening round in Sapporo it will be an achievement which exceeds his bronze medal in the Hungarian capital city.
He faces China’s redoubtable Ma Long; the only recommendation I can make is to call compatriot Jeong Sangeun; two years ago in the third round of the men’s singles event at the Seamaster 2017 Asian Championships in Wuxi, Jeong Sangeun abruptly ended the progress of the reigning Olympic and World champion.
Equally, for Cho Seungmin, semi-finalist last year at the ITTF Challenge Spanish Open in Guadalajara, a quite imposing task awaits; he faces Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju, the no.16 seed. They met last year in both Germany and Hong Kong on the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour; on both occasions the verdict went in favour of Lin Yun-Ju.
Tough matches ahead for An Jaehyun and Cho Seungmin, who have both the advantage of having proceeded through the qualification stage and are thus attuned to the premises; for the seeded quartet of Jang Woojin, Lee Sangsu, Lim Jonghoon and Jeoung Youngsik it is very little different.
Jang Woojin, the no.8 seed, who so memorably just under a year ago in Incheon, secured the men’s singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles titles, faces Japan’s Masaki Yoshida, a player in form having beaten colleague Masataka Morizono and Germany’s Qiu Dang to reach the main draw. Furthermore, in their one previous ITTF World Tour meeting in Incheon 2015, Masaki Yoshida prevailed.
Equally, there are severe tests for Lee Sangsu, bronze medallist at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf and for Jeoung Youngsik, semi-finalist at the Seamaster 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
Both face Chinese adversaries who have negotiated the qualification stage, Jeoung Youngsik, the no.15 seed, opposes Yan An, the player against whom he experienced defeat on the 2013 ITTF World Tour Qatar. Meanwhile, Lee Sangsu, the no.9 seed, opposes Zhao Zhihao, the winner last year on the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour in Belarus.
Progress but does the best opportunity for the Korea Republic lay in the lap of Lim Jonghoon, the no.13 seed and winner last year at the 2019 ITTF Challenge Series Polish Open? The 22 year faces Chinese Taipei’s 38 year of age Chuang Chih-Yuan.
Experience suggests the odds in favour of Chuang Chih-Yuan. However, history recommends otherwise. In 2017 in the Korea Republic and last year in China they met on the Seamaster ITTF World Tour, on both occasions Lim Jonghoon prevailed.
The immediate goal is round one, the long term goal is quite prodigious, to emulate compatriot Oh Sangeun, he is the only player from the Korea Republic to win the men’s singles title at an ITTF World Tour tournament in Japan. He won a decade ago in 2009 in Wakamiya.