by Ian Marshall, Editor
A 3-0 win was the outcome against the no.7 seeds, Chinese Taipei; a contest in which the very early stages did not bode well for the Korea Republic.
Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu, the tried and trusted pair, six career ITTF World Tour men’s doubles titles to their collection in addition to the 2016 Grand Finals, lost the first two games against Chen Chien-An and Liao Cheng-Ting, before recovering to win the next three (4-11, 11-13, 11-7, 11-7, 11-9).
Tense times, a close call but it set the Korea Republic on course to victory. Jang Woojin beat Lin Yun-Ju (11-9, 5-11, 15-13, 11-8), before Jeoung Youngsik ended matters by accounting for Liao Cheng-Ting (11-2, 11-7, 11-9).
It was a high quality performance and perhaps one that reflected the pain of just over three years ago in Rio de Janeiro; in the bronze medal fixture the Koreans experienced a 3-1 defeat when facing Germany. Alongside the now retired Joo Saehyuk, both Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu were both members of that team; could that defeat provide even greater motivation next year?
Equally, judging by the results at the ZEN-NOH 2019 Team World Cup, could Korea Republic versus Germany be a contest to decide a men’s team medal next year?
More pressing engagement
However, a more pressing engagement awaits; in the final on Sunday 10th November, they meet the top seeds, China. In an imperious manner, Fan Zhendong, Liang Jingkun and Xu Xin maintained their unblemished record when by overcoming the no.2 seeds, the Japanese outfit comprising Tomokazu Harimoto, Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura. A resounding 3-0 win was the order of the day.
Now can Korea Republic scale Mount Everest? They face a prodigious challenge but they have an omen. On the most recent occasion when the Team World Cup was a test event for the Olympic Games, in 1995 in Atlanta, Korea Republic emerged the champions.
Perhaps they should consider a selection change and send out their coach! On that occasion Korea Republic recorded a 3-2 win in the final against Germany. Kim Taeksoo beat both Jörg Rosskopf, now the national coach for Germany, as well as overcoming Steffen Fetzner.
Good signs for women’s team
Similarly there were signs on the penultimate day of play in Tokyo, that the Korea Republic’s women’s team may well be candidates to emulate the performance of their predecessors Dang Yeseo, Kim Kyungah and Park Miyoung; bronze medallists at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.
The no.5 seeds, the trio comprising Choi Hyojoo, Jeon Jihee and Shin Yubin experienced a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the no.2 seeds, Japan’s Miu Hirano, Kasumi Ishikawa and Mima Ito. Unquestionably the player to catch the eye was 15 year old Shin Yubin; she partnered Jeon Jihee to success against Kasumi Ishikawa and Miu Hirano (11-7, 11-8, 7-11, 12-10), before in the fourth match of the encounter giving Mima Ito a most severe test (8-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-9).
Sandwiched in between Choi Hyojoo extended Mima Ito the full five games distance (8-11, 11-3, 10-12, 11-6), prior to Miu Hirano accounting for Jeon Jihee (11-2, 11-5, 11-9).
Impressive from Shin Yubin; does that cause the Korea Republic a selection problem with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in mind? The accepted doubles partnership is Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun; eight ITTF World Tour women’s doubles titles to their name; now at the ZEN-NOH 2019 Team World Cup, Jeon Jihee partnering Shin Yubin has proved an instance success.
Against Japan, the defender Suh Hyowon was not selected. At 32 year of age, she is the most senior member of the squad and at no.16, the highest Korean on the world rankings. Can you leave her out of the selection next year at the Olympic Games? Has an attacking top spin player a better chance in a medal match?
In the final, just as the Korea Republic faces a momentous task in the men’s event; so does Japan in the women’s competition; they face top seeds, China. Selecting Ding Ning, Liu Shiwen and Chen Meng, they recorded a 3-0 penultimate round win in opposition to the no.3 seeds, the Chinese Taipei combination of Chen Szu-Yu, Cheng Hsien-Tzu and Cheng I-Ching; warning signs to the rest of the world, a performance of great authority.
Play in Tokyo concludes on Sunday 10th November.