The top 12 qualification positions for Zhengzhou have already been filled in both the men’s and women’s singles events, there remain four places available per category, meaning that a number of players will need to impress in Austria in order to secure their tickets to the Grand Finals.
Alongside the drama of the race to Zhengzhou, the 2019 Austrian Open also promises to boast a series of eye-catching showdowns, featuring several of the biggest names in international table tennis.
New World no.1 in action and potential clash of past champions
Returning to the World no.1 spot earlier this month, Fan Zhendong (CHN) is top seed for the men’s singles event in Linz but will face stiff opposition if he is to make it back-to-back singles titles on the ITTF World Tour after glory at October’s German Open.
If he successfully negotiates his opening round encounter against Mizuki Oikawa (JPN), Fan could face a possible scenario which would see him need to topple the likes of Jang Woojin (KOR) and Lin Yun-Ju (TPE), while Timo Boll (GER), Jun Mizutani (JPN), Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) and Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN) are all potential semi-final opponents.
Boll and Mizutani’s interests are concerned with more than just silverware in Linz with both players still looking to reserve their tickets to the upcoming ITTF World Tour Grand Finals. The German and Japanese legends – currently positioned 15th and 13th respectively – will qualify if they match the progress of the chasing pack, namely Jang Woojin (KOR), Wong Chun Ting (HKG) and Koki Niwa (JPN). However, if any two of the three chasers reach the quarter-finals and Boll or Mizutani succumb to a round one exit then qualification will elude them.
The other side of the draw could produce a spectacular quarter-final contest between two of China’s finest with 2017 Austrian Open champion Lin Gaoyuan lined up to meet 2018 champion Liang Jingkun, while Hugo Calderano (BRA) could potentially lie in wait for the semi-finals.
The Brazilian star will need to negotiate an intriguing first round contest against Kanak Jha (USA) after the American hot shot sealed his first ever main draw appearance at an ITTF World Tour Platinum event, just one week after leading the USA men’s team to an historic quarter-final at the Team World Cup in Tokyo.
“I am happy, but not that surprised, as I am always focused on my tactics and very self-confident. There are more and more young American talents emerging these days and we want to make table tennis bigger and better in the USA. There are good clubs now, especially in California. I am playing in Grenzau, Germany, so I can learn the European way of playing the sport. I hope that we will keep growing and be strong and proud at the 2021 World Championships in Houston, USA.” – Kanak Jha
Women’s road to Zhengzhou intensifies and fond memories for Mima Ito
The race for the remaining women’s singles places at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals also takes centre-stage in Linz. He Zhuojia (CHN), Hitomi Sato (JPN), Cheng I-Ching (TPE) and Jeon Jihee (KOR) are currently in pole position to claim qualification, but if two suffer round one elimination and two of the challengers in Gu Yuting (CHN), Doo Hoi Kem (HKG) and Suh Hyowon (KOR) progress to the semi-finals then the situation changes.
Out of the list of competitors heading to Linz, Japanese teenage star Mima Ito is the most recent Austrian Open champion of those participating, having tasted success in Linz in 2016.
Located in the lower section of the draw, Ito could be presented with a tricky quarter-final encounter against the experienced Cheng I-Ching – who eliminated Ito from last year’s World Tour Grand Finals in Incheon – while 2019 World and Women’s World Cup champion Liu Shiwen (CHN) is also a potential semi-final opponent for the 19-year-old Ito.
Speaking of the Women’s World Cup there is a chance of a repeat clash between top seed Zhu Yuling (CHN) and Feng Tianwei (SGP), one month on from their intense semi-final duel in Chengdu.
From Linz to Zhengzhou to Tokyo… eyes on the doubles!
Fresh from their men’s doubles heroics over Team China in Tokyo, Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu (KOR) are the top-seeded pair in Linz, however the Korea Republic aces could cross swords with the likes of Timo Boll and Patrick Franziska (GER) or Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin (CHN) in the semi-finals.
In the women’s doubles, the host nation’s Sofia Polcanova (AUT) will play alongside Bernadette Szocs (ROU). The competition’s other mixed nationality pairing of Barbora Balazova (SVK) and Hana Matelova (CZE) would be their likeliest opponents in the quarter-finals.
There is plenty of interest and intensity around the mixed doubles competition following news that the four semi-finalists in Zhengzhou will qualify directly to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Lining up in Linz are some blockbuster pairings: Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem (HKG), Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito (JPN) and Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching (TPE) to name just a few.