by Ian Marshall, Editor
The host nation made the better start, Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura accounted for Tom Jarvis and Paul Drinkhall (11-7, 11-6, 11-7), before England mounted the recovery.
Liam Pitchford beat Tomokazu Harimoto (6-11, 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8), prior to Paul Drinkhall overcoming Maharu Yoshimura (11-2, 4-11, 7-11, 11-3, 11-9) and Liam Pitchford returning to the action to defeat Koki Niwa (11-8, 12-10, 11-5) and seal the victory.
Notably, England included in their line-up 19 year old Tom Jarvis, quarter-finalist at the recent 2019 ITTF Challenge Belgosstrakh Belarus Open, as opposed to Sam Walker, the more established member of the team. He had been present alongside Paul Drinkhall and Liam Pitchford at the most recent edition of the ITTF Team World Cup, the event being held in late February 2018, at the Copper Box Arena, a legacy of the London 2012 Olympic Games. On that occasion, also in the group phase, England had experienced a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Japan.
Now, in the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, the venue for the table tennis events for next year’s Olympic Games, they reversed the decision. Ironically each won away from home!
A difference but one vital element was the same; Liam Pitchford has proved the ace in the pack against Japan.
In the London defeat, as today in Tokyo, severe from the backhand, he beat Tomokazu Harimoto in the second match of the fixture (13-11, 11-8, 11-5); then later in the year when they met in April at the Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships in Halmstad, Liam Pitchford did exactly the same again.
Just as in England’s capital city, in the second match of the fixture, he overcame Tomokazu Harimoto in straight games (11-5, 11-5, 11-3). England recorded a 3-1 win.
Outstanding from Liam Pitchford and does the team ethic not bring out the best of the 26 year old? The only other occasion when he has met Tomokazu Harimoto, was earlier this year on the first day of June at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum China Open, he was soundly beaten in four straight games (11-8, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8)!
Defeat for Japan but hopes of progress to the main draw remain alive, teams finishing in first and second positions in each of the four groups advance to the quarter-finals. No changes to the selection, in their second fixture of the day, Japan recorded a 3-1 win in opposition to the no.8 seeds, the Austrian trio formed by Robert Gardos, Stefan Fegerl and Daniel Habesohn.
No doubt stung by the defeat experienced at the hands of Liam Pitchford; Tomokazu Harimoto was in no mood for charity. In straight games he beat both Robert Gardos (11-6, 11-9, 11-6) and Stefan Fegerl (11-7, 11-7, 11-6).
England now plays Austria on the second day of action to determine the final order in the group.
First places as anticipated
Problems for Japan but not for the other highly listed outfits in the men’s team event; all completed their initial phase fixtures securing group first positions.
China, the top seeds, selecting Ma Long, Lin Gaoyuan and Liang Jingkun recorded a 3-0 win against the no.10 seeds, Nigeria’s Bode Abiodun, Quadri Aruna and Olajide Omotayo; before with Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong joining Ma Long, the same margin of victory was registered in opposition to the no.7 seeds, Chinese Taipei’s Liao Cheng-Ting, Chen Chien-An and Lin Jun-Ju.
Likewise, the no.3 seeds, Germany’s Timo Boll, Patrick Franziska and Dimitrij Ovtcharov performed with similar authority. The trio accounted for the no.12 seeds, Australia’s Xavier Dixon, Kane Townsend and Dillon Chambers, followed by success in opposition to the no.6 seeds, Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi, Vitory Ishiy and Eric Jouti.
First place in the group secured, it was the same for the no.4 seeds, Korea Republic’s Lee Sangsu, Jeoung Youngsik and Jang Woojin. They secured a 3-0 win against the no.11 seeds, the United States combination of Kanak Jha, Zhang Kai, Feng Yujin.
An ideal start, in their next engagement, they clinched a 3-1 success when facing the no.5 seeds, Sweden’s Anton Källberg, Kristian Karlsson and Jon Persson. Mainstay of the victory was Jang Woojin, he accounted for both Anton Källberg (7-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-9, 11-8) and Jon Persson (11-7, 13-11, 7-11, 11-6).
Korea Republic upsets seeding
Main draw places secured for three of the top four seeded outfits in the men’s team event; just one upset, it was the same in the counterpart women’s event, the surprise not quite of the magnitude when compared with the male protagonists.
Occupying the no.4 seeded position, represented by Doo Hoi Kem, Lee Ho Ching and Minnie Soo Wai Yam, Hong Kong commenced their quest by recording a 3-0 win in opposition to the no.11 seeds, Brazil’s Caroline Kumahara, Bruna Takahashi and Jessica Yamada. A positive start, in their next encounter it was the reverse scenario; a 3-0 defeat was suffered at the hands of the no.5 seeds, the Korea Republic combination of Jeon Jihee, Suh Hyowon and Yang Haeun.
Tried and trusted, Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun gave their team the perfect start by beating Doo Hoi Kem and Lee Ho Ching (11-3, 11-9, 11-2), before in full distance contests Suh Hyowon accounted for Minnie Soo Wai Yam (11-5, 11-9, 13-15, 9-11, 11-6) and Jeon Jihee overcame Doo Hoi Kem (11-7, 10-12, 15-13, 12-14, 11-6) to end matters.
Korea Republic now meets Brazil to determine first group place.
Otherwise for the leading outfits, the group stage was completed successfully with no great alarm bells ringing.
Top seeds, China selecting Ding Ning, Liu Shiwen and Sun Yingsha claimed a 3-0 win in their opening contest against the no.10 seeds, Egypt, who fielded Farah Abdel-Aziz, Reem El-Eraky and Dina Meshref. Intentions clear, they secured first place in the group by posting the same margin of victory in opposition to the no.8 seeds, the Ukraine outfit formed by Tetyana Bilenko, Ganna Gaponova and Solomiya Brateyko; a contest in which Chen Meng and Wang Manyu replaced Liu Shiwen and Sun Yingsha.
Imposing, it was the same from the no.2 seeds, the host nation’s Kasumi Ishikawa, Miu Hirano and Mima Ito. A 3-0 win against the no.8 seeds, Austria’s Amelie Solja, Karoline Mischek and Liu Jia was followed by the same outcome when confronting the no.11 seeds, the United States formation of Amy Wang, Lily Zhang and Wu Yue.
Meanwhile, not to be outdone, it was top spot in the group for the no.3 seeds, Chinese Taipei’s Cheng Hsien-Tu, Chen Szu-Yu and Cheng I-Ching. After securing a 3-0 win when facing the no.12 seeds, Vanuatu’s Priscila Tommy, Anolyn Lulu and Stephanie Qwea; a 3-1 success in opposition to the no.6 seeds, Romania’s Daniela Monteiro Dodean, Elizabeta Samara and Bernadette Szocs, closed the curtain for the day.
Mainstay of the Chinese Taipei success was Cheng I-Ching; she beat both Bernadette Szocs (11-9, 7-11, 11-8, 11-6) and Elizabeta Samara (11-5, 11-8, 11-2).
Play in the group phase concludes on Thursday 7th November.