by Simon Daish
Strong line-up for Team China
The Chinese trio of Xu Xin, Lin Gaoyuan and Ma Long have all celebrated men’s singles titles on this year’s ITTF World Tour, but Fan Zhendong remains searching for something to celebrate of his own. The former world no.1 dropped down to no.3 in the world ranking this week. Apart from Lin Gaoyuan, all of China’s big hitters are out in force in Busan, including Liang Jingkun, whose stock has risen plenty over the past 12 months to be considered a contender for silverware himself.
Ding Ning heads the seeding list in the women’s singles category ahead of Grand Finals gold medallist Chen Meng, a player searching for her third singles title on the 2019 ITTF World Tour. Wang Manyu, Liu Shiwen and defending Korea Open champion Zhu Yuling will also contest the event while 2019 Japan Open winner Sun Yingsha looks to claim back-to-back titles on the ITTF World Tour for the first time in her career.
Japanese contingent ready to fight
Three Japanese representatives make the seeding list for the men’s singles tournament: Tomokazu Harimoto has yet to find his top level so far in 2019 but did succeed on Korean soil last December at the 2018 Grand Finals in Incheon. Koki Niwa and Jun Mizutani always put up an exciting fight and will be out to prove a point with one eye on the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Japan will also field its biggest names in the women’s singles competition with Kasumi Ishikawa, Mima Ito and Miu Hirano all set to make the trip. Saki Shibata and defensive star Hitomi Sato are also seeded and have the potential to go far – could they mount an outside challenge in Busan?
Host nation in good hands
History maker last year in Daejeon, Jang Woojin is back and ready to represent the host nation with pride. The first-ever ITTF World Tour triple crown winner is not the only Korean in action with Lee Sangsu, Lim Jonghoon and Jeoung Youngsik also beginning their journeys in the main draw.
2013 women’s singles champion Suh Hyowon, known for her sensational defensive skills, is always a joy to watch and Jeon Jihee will also be keen to impress in front of the home crowd.
World Championships runner-up Mattias Falck will head to Busan on a mission to rediscover some of the form that helped him enjoy so much success in Budapest with Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting and Chinese Taipei’s Lin-Yun Ju also making the seeding list. Nigerian and Indian stars Quadri Aruna and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran will also be present.
Seeded eighth, Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching is most certainly a force to be reckoned with in Busan. Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem is also worth keeping an eye out for and then there’s Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, a three-time champion at the event (2009, 2011 and 2017) – can she go all the way for a fourth time?