15 Nov 2019

Seeking to secure places in the forthcoming Grand Finals, to be staged in the Chinese city of Zhengzhou in December, when play concluded on Thursday 24th November at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum Austrian Open, the names of those who would eventually complete the list of qualifiers was still in doubt.

Intense competition was the order of the day, nowhere more so than in the men’s singles event.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

The top 12 names on the standings were home and dry following the ITTF World Tour German Open; prior to play commencing Linz, the next four places were filled by Japan’s Jun Mizutani (402 points), Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik (354 points), Germany’s Timo Boll (344 points) and Jang Woojin (298 points).

A main draw place it is 25 points, second round adds 50 points to the total, reach the quarter-finals collect 100 points, the semi-finals 200 points, conclude matters in runners up spot, it is 300 points, reserve the top step of the podium the reward is 500 points.

No member of the group can sleep easily; for Jun Mizutani and Jang Woojin, the future is out of their hands. In the opening round, Jun Mizutani, the no.11 seed, lost to England’s Liam Pitchford (8-11, 11-1, 11-2, 9-11, 11-8, 13-15, 11-3), Jang Woojin, the no.12 seed, was beaten by Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic (11-5, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9, 14-12, 15-13). Jang Woojin is the name in the greatest danger.

Conversely, Jeoung Youngsik gave his chances a massive boost by overcoming Germany’s Patrick Franziska, the no.13 seed (4-11, 11-9, 11-6, 9-11, 11-5, 11-9); Timo Boll, the no.5 seed, ousted Aliaksandr Khanin of Belarus (11-8, 11-5, 11-9, 11-7).

Jeoung Youngsik greatly enhanced his chances by beating Patrick Franziska for whom a Grand Finals place is assured (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Looking over shoulders

All are looking over their shoulders at the future performances of Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting, who started the day in the no.18 spot (263 points) and Koki Niwa at no.19 (256 points). Also still in the picture is China’s Zhao Zihao in the no.21 position (189 points), one place lower Frenchman Simon Gauzy (187 points) and Liam Pitchford (181 points). Moreover, with the suspension of China’s Wang Chuqin, who started the play in Linz at no.6 (819 points), their chances of a place in the Finals may be enhanced.

Also, depending on the results of others, a quarter-final place could be enough for Timo Boll and Jeoung Youngsik; it may even be sufficient for Wong Chun Ting and Koki Niwa but for Zhao Zihao, Simon Gauzy and Liam Pitchford, a semi-final berth is the absolute minimum requirement.

Additional to the success of Liam Pitchford, in the opening round Wong Chun Ting, the no.14 seed, beat Portugal’s Marcos Freitas (11-6, 13-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-7), Koki Niwa, the no.9 seed, overcame Germany’s Benedikt Duda (11-8, 11-9, 11-5, 4-11, 5-11, 11-6). Somewhat differently Zhao Zihao and Simon Gauzy upset the order of merit by beating Austrian adversaries. Zhao Zihao accounted for Daniel Habesohn, the no.16 seed (13-11, 11-5, 11-9, 12-10), Simon Gauzy ended the hopes of Robert Gardos, the no.15 seed (8-11, 11-2, 8-11, 11-7, 12-10, 8-11, 11-8).

Koki Niwa beat Benedikt Duda to keep Zhengzhou hopes alive (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Ended day still in vital positions

Meanwhile, in the women’s singles event, likewise the top 12 names assured of Grand Finals places, the players who started the day in the next four places, China’s He Zhuojia (338 points), Japan’s Hitomi Sato (337 points), Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching (295 points) and Korea Republic’s Jeon Jihee (292 points), all enjoyed opening round success. Thus each added a further 50 points to their tally.

He Zhoujia, the no.11 seed, beat Germany’s Nina Mittelham (11-9, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 11-7), Japan’s Hitomi Sato, the no.14 seed, accounted for China’s Zhang Rui (8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 8-11, 11-8, 11-6). Likewise, Cheng I-Ching, the no.6 seed, prevailed against Hong Kong’s Lee Ho Ching (11-5, 11-2, 7-11, 12-10, 12-10), Jeon Jihee ended the hopes of Minami Ando, like Hitomi Sato from Japan (11-9, 11-9, 11-6, 11-5).

However, should any members of the quartet experience a second round defeat, they could open the door for China’s Gu Yuting, who started the tournament in the no.17 spot (199 points) and for Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem at no.18 (198 points). However, for both Gu Yuting and Doo Hoi Kem, gaining a top 16 spot, a semi-final place is mandatory.

Gu Yuting needs to reach the penultimate round to qualify for the Grand Finals (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Door Open

Notably, the door is not yet closed for Korea Republic’s Suh Hyowon, who commenced the day at no.20 (179 points), nor for Austria’s Sofia Polcanova at no.22 (178 points).

Could China’s Qian Tianyi at no.24 (164 points) even book her place? After beating colleague Liu Shiwen, the no.2 seed, in the opening round of the women’s singles event (8-11, 11-8, 8-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8), surely that is a possibility.

Impressive from Qian Tianyi in the opening round, it was the same from Gu Yuting. Likewise, she caused an upset by overcoming Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, the no.8 seed (11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 8-11, 11-7, 13-11); meanwhile, Doo Hoi Kem, the no.7 seed, ousted Hong Kong’s Minne Soo Wai Yam (11-13, 11-7, 11-6, 6-11, 11-4, 11-9).

Progress for Doo Hoi Kem as expected, in a similar vein Suh Hyowon, the no.10 seed beat Chinese Taipei’s Cheng Hsien-Tzu (12-10, 11-9, 11-4, 12-10), Sofia Polcanova, the no.12 seed, ended the progress of Korea Republic’s Choi Hyojoo (13-11, 8-11, 13-11, 9-11, 8-11, 16-14, 12-10).

Doo Hoi Kem accounted for Minne Soo Wai Yam to keep hopes alive (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Last places decided

The last places still potentially open; not in the mixed doubles; success for the French pairing of Emmanuel Lebesson and Yuan Jia Nan in opposition to Austria’s Stefan Fegerl and Sofia Polcanova, the no.8 seeds (5-11, 11-5, 11-5, 13-11) and for Japan’s Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito, the no.3 seeds, when facing Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu and Bernadette Szocs (11-7, 11-7, 11-6) meant the pairs that complete the top eight names are known.

Without playing, having departed in the qualification stage, taking into account that a national association is permitted only one pair in the Grand Finals and as a partnership that combination must have made four appearances on this year’s ITTF World Tour, the French duo of Tristan Flore and Laura Gasnier alongside Hungary’s Adam Szudi and Szandra Pergel finish in joint seventh place (233 points).

One question to be resolved is which pair from Korea Republic will join them. In the opening round Cho Daeseong and Shin Yubin beat Slovakia’s Lubomir Pistej and Barbora Balazova, the no.7 seeds (11-9, 11-5, 11-6), who end the year in sixth place (259 points); Lee Sangsu and Jeon Jihee, the no.4 seeds, accounted for Germany’s Patrick Franziska and Petrissa Solja (11-3, 13-11, 11-4).

The outcome is that both pairs occupy in what is an effective fifth place; at the start of play Cho Daeseong and Shin Yubin (263 points) stood ahead of Lee Sangsu and Jeon Jihee (241 points). They meet in the quarter-finals, the winner will add 75 points to their tally, the loser 38 points; a place in the Finals is at stake.

Lee Sangsu (nearest camera) and Jeon Jihee face colleagues Cho Daeseong and Shin Yubin for a place in the Grand Finals (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Long shot

One Grand Finals place in doubt following the mixed doubles quarters; it is the same in the men’s doubles but it is a long shot. The question mark surrounds the last position and is focused on Chinese Taipei.

Liao Cheng-Ting and Lin Yun-Ju, the no.2 seeds, experienced an opening round defeat at the hands of Japan’s Masataka Morizono and Maharu Yoshimura (11-4, 8-11, 11-9, 11-6); they look destined for the no.7 spot (308 points). Equally, colleagues, Chen Chien-An and Chuang Chih-Yuan, the no.6 seeds, after overcoming England’s Paul Drinkhall and Sam Walker (11-9, 11-7, 11-9) appear set for the no.8 berth. They started play (232 points); they have now added 38 points to that total (270 points).

However, the combination of Poland’s Jakub Dyjas and Belgium’s Cédric Nuytinck, who gained a first round walk-over when scheduled to meet China’s Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin, the no.4 seeds, alongside the host nation’s Robert Gardos and Daniel Habesohn, the no.7 seeds, who accounted for colleagues Alexander Chen and David Serdaroglu (11-9, 11-9, 12-10), are still just in the hunt.

On the standings, at the start of the day, Jakub Dyjas and Cédric Nuytinck occupied the no.9 spot (163 points), Robert Gardos and Daniel Habesohn one place below (139 points); a place in the semi-finals for either pair will not be enough for a top eight place. However, progress to the final, depending on the performance of Chen Chien-An and Chuang Chih-Yuan, could be sufficient. A semi-final place means 75 points, runners up spot 150 points; for the winner 300 points.

Notably further up the order, Timo Boll and Patrick Franziska, who started the day in the no.3 spot on the standings (488 points) completed their four appearance minimum criteria; by the narrowest of margins they beat German colleagues Benedikt Duda and Qiu Dang (10-12, 8-11, 13-11, 11-4, 11-9). Both pairs qualify for the Finals; Benedikt Duda and Qiu Dang conclude matters in a most likely no.6 spot (363 points).

Timo Boll (left) and (right) Patrick Franziska, assured of a place in Zhengzhou (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Opportunity for Singapore

The last place still mathematically open in the men’s doubles; the women’s doubles is the same following the defeat of Hong Kong’s Ng Wing Nam and Minnie Soo Wai Yam, the no.4 seeds, by Wu Yue and Lily Zhang of the United States (11-6, 11-6, 13-11). Currently the Hong Kong duo occupies the no.8 eligible spot (176 points) but they can be caught.

Singapore’s Lin Ye and Yu Mengyu are breathing down their necks, they started the day in a realistic no.9 spot (101 points); in the opening round they also caused Hong Kong problems, they accounted for Doo Hoi Kem and Lee Ho Ching, the no.2 seeds (8-11, 15-13, 11-8, 11-9).

They now face Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu and Cheng Hsien-Tzu, the no.6 seeds, in the quarter-finals; win that match and they add 75 points to their total (176 points). They will be level with Ng Wing Nam and Minnie Soo Wai Yam. If that happens and the Singaporeans progress no further, world ranking decides; that favours the Hong Kong duo. They are listed at no.8 (1,020 points), the Singaporeans at no.23 (520 points).

An enthralling day, the picture not yet totally clear; now on Friday 15th November, another tense and enthralling day awaits.

Faint hopes alive for Lin Ye (nearest camera) and Yu Mengyu (Photo: Rémy Gros)
World Tour 2019 Austrian Open Timo Boll Jun Mizutani Jang Woojin Jeoung Youngsik

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Day 4 - 2019 ITTF World Tour Austrian Open