by Simon Daish
Who is Lin Yun-Ju?
Flying the flag for Chinese Taipei, at just 17 years of age Lin has already established himself as one of the sport’s biggest names in his relatively short career to date and the rapid rate of his development suggests there’s plenty more to get excited about in the years to come.
Since January 2018 Lin’s rise up the world rankings ladder has been nothing short of spectacular, moving up 118 positions to no.16 as of July 2019!
A left-handed shakehand grip player Lin possesses an explosive forehand attack and lightning quick footwork – he always appears to be in the right place at the right time, making the opponent’s job that little bit tougher.
For years much of the attention to come out of Chinese Taipei on the men’s side has been centred around former ITTF World Tour Grand Finals champion Chuang Chih-Yuan. However, with Chuang entering the twilight years of his playing career at 38, understandably there is hope from the national setup that a natural long-term successor has found in Lin.
What’s got everyone talking?
2019 has been a breakout year for Lin on the world stage with many of his headline-grabbing performances coming on this year’s ITTF World Tour.
At the 2019 Qatar Open in Doha, Lin successfully accounted for Hong Kong penholder Wong Chun Ting and former World no.1 Dimitrij Ovtcharov on his way to a marvellous top eight finish. More recently at the 2019 Japan Open Lin pulled off a breathtaking comeback victory over China’s Lin Gaoyuan prior to beating another top 10 player in Brazil’s Hugo Calderano – Lin went on to secure a silver medal in Sapporo.
Aside from the ITTF World Tour, Lin also impressed at the 2019 Asian Cup in Yokohama where he achieved a respectable fifth position finish while the first men’s singles gold medal of his career came at the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open in Muscat.
However, the standout moment of Lin’s journey so far came only a few days back at T2 Diamond Malaysia in Johor Bahru where he defied all the odds to lift the men’s singles trophy.
Opening his account with a sensational 4-0 victory over Rio 2016 medallist Jun Mizutani, Lin went on to claim an even bigger upset in the quarterfinals, seeing off three-time World champion Ma Long in a thrilling six games affair. The run of big-name scalps didn’t stop there as Lin completely blew Wong Chun Ting away in the penultimate round of play before crowning his magnificent campaign with an electric performance in the final, prevailing 4-1 against former World no.1 Fan Zhendong to leave the crowd, and viewers across the globe, in a state of shock.
Is he the real deal?
Following his unbelievable display at T2 Diamond Malaysia, many are now beginning to ask questions: How high can this teenage star go? Can he mix it with the big boys on the biggest of stages?
Lin has already proved that he can topple the Giants of the men’s game, including the elite names from China and will very much be on Team China’s radar as a potential threat leading up to next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Impressively Lin also appears to be unfazed by the pressure of the spotlight, a point well illustrated with his victory over Fan Zhendong in Johor Bahru. Finishing off Fan in convincing fashion, there was no roar, no tears, no over-the-top celebration from Lin. He instead carried an air of calm throughout – it was almost as if he was expecting the result, as if he knew it was his destiny!
Over the past few years many have rightly so praised young Japanese superstar Tomokazu Harimoto, 16, for his incredible development over a short period of time, growing into one of the strongest forces in the game. But, now there’s a new face on the block in the form of Lin Yun-Ju and the question is whether this young man from Chinese Taipei can continue to cause a stir at the top for years to come? If so, then who knows how far he can go!