by Ian Marshall, Editor
At the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Platinum Shinhan Korea Open, Jang Woojin partnered DPR Korea’s Cha Hyo Sim to mixed doubles gold; in addition he won the men’s doubles in liaison with colleague Lim Jonghoon, before securing the men’s singles title.
Partnering Zhu Yuling on the penultimate day of play in Sapporo, Xu Xin secured the top step of the mixed doubles podium; now on the concluding day of action he faces Fan Zhendong at the semi-final stage of the men’s singles event, before joining forces with his colleague in the men’s doubles final. The duo face Germany’s Benedikt Duda and Qiu Ding.
Left handed, Xu Xin provides the ideal foil for the right hander in any doubles event; it is the same for Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju in the opposite half of the men’s singles draw. He faces China’s Sun Wen in what is an intriguing encounter between two players competing in their first ever ITTF World Tour men’s singles semi-final.
However, it is partnering Chen I-Ching in mixed doubles events that he has enjoyed the greatest level of success; this year the pair won on the Seamaster 2019 ITTF Challenge Series in Oman before on the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour succeeding in both China and Hong Kong.
Both Xu Xin and Lin Yun-Ju follow in a line of talented left handers who excelled when doubles was the issue; China’s Chen Qi, Yan Sen, Wang Tao come readily to mind as do the European names of Mikael Appelgren, Jörg Rosskopf, Stellan Bengtsson and Thomas von Scheele.
However for me there is one who stands above all others, perhaps the one who set the trend, the wonder kid “Tova” known as “the golden left of Croatian table tennis”; Antun Stipancic.
At the 1979 World Championships in Pyongyang, he partnered Dragutin Surbek to men’s doubles gold; earlier at the European Championships, in 1968 he had succeeded in harness with Edvard Vecko, repeating the feat with Dragutin Surbek in 1970 in Moscow. Later in 1976 in Prague, he secured the mixed doubles title partnering Erzsebet Palatinus.
It is in his shadow the likes of Xu Xin and Lin Yun-Ju of the modern era ply their skills; tragically Antun Stipancic passed away on Wednesday 20th November 1991, he was only 42 years of age.