XU-PER MAN STRIKES IN SAPPORO!
Undoubtedly the star of the show at the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum Lion Japan Open, XU Xin (CHN) got his hands on the maximum three titles available to him in the Men’s Singles, Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles.
The incredible feat made XU only the second player to win a triple crown in ITTF World Tour history, following in the footsteps of JANG Woojin (KOR) at last year’s Korea Open.
XU, the world #3, claimed his 15th career ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title by defeating world #20 LIN Yun-Ju (TPE) in Sunday’s final (11-9, 14-12, 8-11, 11-3, 11-8), having knocked out world #1 and top seed FAN Zhendong (CHN) in a semi-final that went the distance (5-11, 11-4, 11-7, 5-11, 6-11, 11-8, 11-3).
World champions in 2017 in Düsseldorf, XU and FAN combined for their fourth ITTF World Tour Men’s Doubles title by beating Benedikt DUDA and QIU Dang (GER) in straight games (12-10, 11-9, 11-7).
XU’s third title in Sapporo had come in the Mixed Doubles on Saturday, when he partnered ZHU Yuling to victory against Tomokazu HARIMOTO and Hina HAYATA (JPN) (12-10, 11-6, 11-5).
LAND OF THE RISING SUN!
SUN Yingsha (CHN) enjoys a special relationship with Japan. Two years on from claiming her first ITTF World Tour title in Tokyo, the world #18 doubled her tally by winning the Women’s Singles title in Sapporo.
Unseeded for the event, SUN emerged from the two-day qualification tournament before going on to claim main draw victories over SUH Hyowon (KOR), Kasumi ISHIKAWA (JPN) and WANG Manyu (CHN) to reach the last four.
In the semi-final, she recovered from a game down to defeat world #1 CHEN Meng (CHN) (5-11, 11-8, 11-7, 14-12, 11-6) before overcoming World champion LIU Shiwen (CHN) in an epic seven-game final (11-4, 11-9, 4-11, 6-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-3).
One thing’s clear: SUN Yingsha loves playing in Japan – could this bode well for her Tokyo 2020 ambitions?
Despite defeat in the Singles competition, CHEN Meng and LIU Shiwen were crowned Women’s Doubles champions on Sunday after winning their all-Chinese showdown against SUN Yingsha and WANG Manyu (11-9, 11-6, 7-11, 11-9).
For both pairs, this was only their second appearance in an ITTF World Tour Women’s Doubles final: previously CHEN and LIU had won in 2015 in Chengdu, while SUN and WANG took gold earlier this year in Doha.
ANOTHER SUN SHINES AMONG SHOCKS
The 2019 ITTF Japan Open also saw the rise of another sun! A virtual unknown heading into the tournament and ranked #599 in the world, SUN Wen (CHN) saw off three big-name players, knocking out the 2018 Japan Open Men’s Singles champion and world #4 Tomokazu HARIMOTO (JPN), followed by world #11 LEE Sangsu (KOR) and #7 LIANG Jingkun (CHN) to reach Sunday’s semi-final.
There he lost to eventual runner-up LIN Yun-Ju (6-11, 11-2, 11-4, 11-9, 11-4), but nevertheless the 22-year-old had thrust himself into the limelight and will be a name to watch out for at upcoming tournaments.
For LIN Yun-Ju, this was also a watershed moment, the 16-year-old reaching his first ever ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles final and claiming a couple of eye-catching scalps along the way, not least his comeback win from two games down against world #2 LIN Gaoyuan in the round of 16 (during which he won the third game 21-19) followed by his straight games success over #8 Hugo CALDERANO (BRA) in the quarter-final.
The 2019 ITTF Japan Open threw up plenty of shocks over the course of the week, with defending Men’s and Women’s Singles champions and local stars HARIMOTO and Mima ITO (JPN) knocked out in the round of 32, by SUN Wen and GU Yuting (CHN) respectively.
Meanwhile, women’s world #3 and #4 DING Ning (CHN) and ZHU Yuling (CHN) also failed to make it to the weekend’s action, losing to Japanese pair, Hitomi SATO and Miyu NAGASAKI respectively.
For MA Long (CHN), Sapporo proved a step too far, as the World champion was unable to add to his record tally of 28 ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles, after he was knocked out by FAN Zhendong in Saturday’s quarter-final (12-14, 6-11, 11-8, 7-11, 5-11).
COMING UP: KOREA!
Next up on the 2019 ITTF World Tour is the Korea Open, taking place between 2-7 July in Busan.