Following the drama of recent weeks at the China and Hong Kong Opens, it is shaping up to be equally exciting in Sapporo for the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum, LION Japan Open, which reaches its climax on Sunday 16 June.
THRILLS AND SPILLS
One year on from his famous victory on home soil, Tomokazu HARIMOTO (JPN) surrendered his Japan Open crown with a shock defeat in straight games to world-ranked 599, SUN Wen (CHN) (8-11, 5-11, 7-11, 8-11). Few could have predicted that the 15-year-old talent and world #4 would fail to make the last 16 in front of his Japanese fans.
Just one hour later, it was the turn of the 2018 Japan Open Women’s Singles champion and world #7 Mima ITO (JPN) to crash out of the event after losing 4-2 to #56 GU Yuting (CHN) (11-7, 7-11, 8-11, 9-11, 14-12, 10-12).
A flurry of upsets on Friday also saw women’s world #4 ZHU Yuling (CHN) beaten 4-1 by #39 Miyu NAGASAKI (JPN) and #8 CHENG I-Ching (TPE) eliminated by #353 LIU Fei (CHN).
Meanwhile men’s world #83 Ruwen FILUS (GER) came from two games down to knock out #17 WONG Chun Ting (HKG) 4-2, as world #49 Kazuhiro YOSHIMURA (JPN) defeated compatriot and #10 Koki NIWA by the same scoreline.
THE PATH TO GLORY
Men’s world #1 FAN Zhendong (CHN) is in line to meet world champion and #5 MA Long (CHN) in what would be another epic quarter-final clash. MA’s victory at the China Open saw him set a new record for career ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles (28). Can ‘The Dragon’ make it 29 in Japan?
Meanwhile #3 XU Xin could face the winner between Dimitrij OVTCHAROV (GER) and JANG Woojin (KOR) in the final eight. On the other side of the men’s draw, #2 LIN Gaoyuan (CHN) would most likely be drawn up against Hugo CALDERANO (BRA) and then LIANG Jingkun (CHN) as he bids to reach yet another ITTF World Tour final.
In the Women’s Singles competition, the most likely semi-final match-ups would pit world #1 CHEN Meng (CHN) against #5 WANG Manyu (CHN), and world champion and #2 LIU Shiwen (CHN) against #3 DING Ning (CHN).
THREE WEEKS. THREE WINS?
Mixed Doubles champions at both the China and Hong Kong Opens, LIN Yun-Ju and CHENG I Ching (TPE) will be looking to make it three gold medals in as many weeks at the Japan Open.
Standing in their way in the quarter-finals are home pairing, Mima ITO and Koki NIWA (JPN), while XU Xin is being partnered with ZHU Yuling in Sapporo, as Team China continues to experiment with its Mixed Doubles options ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
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