30 Nov 2019

Defending champion, China’s Fan Zhendong, alongside colleague Ma Long and Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto, the respective top three seeds, all progressed to the semi-final stage at the Chengdu Airlines 2019 ITTF Men’s World Cup, following success on Saturday 30th November.

Most noteworthy performances but the player above all others to attract the attention was the player who completes the quartet, Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

The no.7 seed, he accounted for Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson, the no.15 seed (11-8, 11-4, 11-7, 4-11, 11-9), prior to recording a quarter-final success in opposition to Brazil’s Hugo Calderano, the no.4 seed (5-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-6, 11-3), the first round winner against Kanak Jha of the United States.

Occupying the no.16 seeded position; the Brazilian had to recover from a three games to one deficit to ensure success (9-11, 9-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-8). In what is now seven meetings in the international arena, it is the closest Kanak Jha has come to beating Hugo Calderano; we look forward with baited breath to the Universal 2019 ITTF Pan America Cup in Puerto Rico next February.

A fine effort from the 19 year old American but it was the one year younger, Lin Yun-Ju who held centre stage.

Memories of Anton Stipancic

Once again sheer talent shone; playing over the table, in the modern era, he is the match of anyone. He is the new “golden hand”, the name given to the late Croatian, Anton Stipancic, likewise left handed, in the 1970s and 1980s he represented the country then known as Yugoslavia with the greatest of pride.

It was his deft touches, incredible skill that thrilled crowds worldwide. Lin Yun-Ju is now doing exactly the same.

Youngest player

A semi-final place for Lin Yun-Ju means that he is the youngest player, competing in his first Men’s World Cup, ever to reach the semi-final stage. However, he is not the youngest player ever to reach the penultimate round, he is not the first player on debut to reach the last four and he is not the first from Chinese Taipei.

Significantly, all involved in the equation, were very much involved on the second day of play.

Lin Yun-Ju beats Fan Zhendong as youngest semi-finalist on debut by 163 days. Playing in his first ever World Cup tournament in 2015 in Halmstad, Fan Zhendong was 18 years and 268 days old, when he reached the semi-final stage on Saturday 17th October. Lin Yun-Ju is 18 years and 105 days old.

A favour from Timo Boll

Several players have reached the semi-final stage on their first appearance, it is not unusual but one name stands out, Timo Boll won on debut in 2002 in Jinan city. Furthermore, it was Timo Boll who prevented Tomokazu Harimoto becoming the youngest ever player on debut to reach the last four; last year in Paris, the German ended the Japanese teenager’s hopes at the quarter-final stage (9-11, 11-3, 13-11, 11-5, 11-9).

However, less than two hours prior to the quarter-final success recorded by Lin Yun-Ju; after beating Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna, the no.11 seed (11-7, 13-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-6), Tomokazu Harimoto accounted for colleague Koki Niwa, the no.8 seed (11-6, 11-7, 10-12, 10-12, 12-14, 11-3, 11-8). Thus at 16 years and 156 days old, he becomes the youngest ever semi-finalist at a Men’s World Cup.

Third attempt

A first semi-final appearance for Chinese Taipei? Not so, Chuang Chih-Yuan tried 15 times but never progressed beyond the quarter-finals. However, on his third appearance in 2001 in Courmayeur, Chiang Peng-Lung, after finishing ahead of Austria’s Werner Schlager and Sweden’s Peter Karlsson on games ratio in the group stage, with Egypt’s Ahmed Ali Saleh in fourth place, beat China’s Ma Wenge to reach the last four.

The journey was ended by the champion elect, Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, who in Chengdu competed in his 18th Men’s World Cup; thus he equals Sweden’s Jan-Ove Waldner and Belgium’s Jean-Michel Saive in having the most appearances in the competition.

Chiang Peng-Lung is now the Chinese Taipei national coach.


At the semi-final stage, Tomokazu Harimoto meets the senior citizen, 31 year old Ma Long, Lin Yun-Ju confronts the ageing 22 year old Fan Zhendong. Maybe because their advancing years should we allow Ma Long and Fan Zhendong two “time outs” per match?

Focused Ma Long and Fan Zhendong both ended German hopes. Ma Long accounted for Frenchman, Simon Gauzy, the no.12 seed (11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 8-11, 15-13), before overcoming Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the no.9 seed (6-11, 11-9, 11-4, 13-11, 11-3).

Fan Zhendong prevailed against Austria’s Daniel Habesohn, the no.19 seed (11-8, 13-11, 11-7, 11-2), before accounting for Timo Boll, the no.5 seed (11-6, 11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 12-10).

Play in Chengdu concludes on Sunday 1st December.

World Cup 2019 Men's World Cup Lin Yun -Ju

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Day 3 - Chengdu Airlines 2019 ITTF Men's World Cup