05 Dec 2019

Hoping that one day they may be summoned to compete in the major tournaments on the international calendar, China’s strength in depth was underlined in bold in the Canadian city of Markham on Wednesday 4th December.

Eight players entered the arena for the qualification round of the women’s singles event, eight emerged successful, eight booked main draw places. One wonders in that group is their potential champion?

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Imposing performances without the need for a deciding seventh game were very much the order of the day; the one exception being Huang Fanzhen, she was extended the full distance by Romania’s Andreea Dragoman (13-15, 8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 11-1).

A spirited effort from Romania but defeat; it was somewhat similar from France. Leili Mostafavi stretched Leng Yutong to five games (11-8, 11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 11-9), Nolwenn Fort tested Wang Xiaotong. She lost in six games (11-8, 11-13, 11-4, 7-11, 14-12, 11-5).

Straight games successes

Otherwise, for the remaining members of the group it was success in straight games. Yang Huijing, Guo Yuhan and Yang Yiyun all ended the hopes of the host nation. Yang Huijing beat Nicole Cai (11-2, 11-8, 11-6, 13-11), Guo Yuhan accounted for Wu Siqian (11-4, 11-7, 11-6, 11-6), Yang Yiyun gained a walk-over when due to face the injured Adina Maria Cuchirita.

In a similar fashion Che Xiaoxi accounted for Chua Wan Zhen of the United States (11-1, 11-6, 11-3, 11-4), Qi Fei ended the hopes of Belgium’s Natacha Koszulap (11-7, 11-2, 11-3, 11-6).

International success

Fine performances but from players not new to the international scene; notably on the ITTF World Tour in under 21 women’s singles events, in 2013 Che Xiaoxi won in Japan, in 2018 Guo Yuhan prevailed in Pyongyang, earlier this year Qi Fei was the runner up in Poland.

Similarly, on the ITTF World Junior Circuit, in 2018 Wang Xiaotong emerged the junior girls’ singles champion in Slovakia, Huang Fanzhen struck gold in Thailand as well as being the runner up in the Czech Republic. Meanwhile, in 2018 Yang Yiyun was the cadet girls’ singles winner in France, a feat emulated this year by Leng Yutong in Hungary.

Main draw places for those making their early footsteps on the international scene; there was also success in the qualifying round of the women’s singles event for a player who competed in the very first year of the ITTF World Tour. In 1996 representing China, Wang Chen won on home soil in X’ian and also Australia, in 1997 she reserved the top step of the podium in Malaysia. Now a United States resident, she beat Canada’s Wang Xinyang (11-4, 11-2, 11-5, 11-1) to reserve her main draw place.

Doubles troubles

Main draw places without blemish for China. It was the same in the men’s doubles. Liang Guodong and Zeng Beixun progressed by overcoming Canada’s Matthew Lehman and Marko Medjugorac (4-11, 11-3, 11-7, 11-8). Similarly, Xu Haidong and Zhao Zhaoyan succeeded in opposition to Belgium’s Thibaut Darcis and Valentin Pieraert (4-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-9).

Not a blemish from the Chinese camp; that was not the situation in the women’s doubles and mixed doubles events. In the women’s doubles Liu Xi and Zhang Qiang beat the combination formed by Charlotte Carey of Wales and Croatia’s Andrea Pavlovic (11-4, 11-6, 11-6); Che Xiaoxi and Li Jiayi overcame Andreea Dragoman and Romanian colleague, Elena Zaharia (11-7, 11-5, 11-13, 11-7). However, there was defeat for Qi Fei and Wang Xiaotong, they suffered by the narrowest of decisions at the hands of the French pairing formed by Stéphanie Loeuillette and Nathalie Marchetti (11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 9-11, 13-11).

Likewise in the mixed doubles qualifying round there was defeat for China; Zhaoyan and Liu Xi beat Canada’s Chen Honghao and Wu Siqian (11-3, 11-4, 11-6) but Cao Wei and Li Jiayi lost to Russia’s Denis Ivonin and Yana Noskova (7-11, 10-12, 11-3, 11-6, 11-5).

Seeds fall

Main draw places known, under the under 21 men’s singles and under 21 women’s singles events the quarter-finalists were decided; as in the mixed doubles, the name of Denis Ivonin was prominent but for a very different reason. The top seed, he was beaten in the second round, his opening contest, by Argentina’s Martin Bentancor, the no.14 seed (11-9, 4-11, 11-8, 11-8).

A surprise quarter-final place for Martin Bentancor, it was the same for colleague, Santiago Lorenzo; as according to status it was for the host nation’s Jeremy Hazin alongside the Chinese trio of Liang Guodong, Liu Yebo and Xiang Peng.

Liang Guodong and Liu Yebo both ended the aspirations of Belgium; Liang Guodong, the no.24 seed, accounted for Robin Devos, the no.5 seed (9-11, 8-11, 11-5, 12-10, 11-9) to reserve a last eight place; Liu Yebo, the no.15 seed, overcame Florian Cnudde, the no.6 seed (11-8, 4-11, 11-7, 11-7).

Not to upstaged, Santiago Lorenzo, the no.22 seed and Xiang Peng, the no.9 seed, halted French progress. Santiago Lorenzo beat Jules Rolland, the no.7 seed (9-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-5); Xiang Peng defeated Bastien Rembert, the no.9 seed (12-10, 12-10, 11-6). Supporting the host nation, Jeremy Hazin, the no.13 seed, ended the hopes of Spain’s Joan Masip, the no.8 seed (11-4, 11-8, 5-11, 11-7).

Places for three players from China, it is the same for Argentina. Alongside India’s Manav Vikash Thakkar, the no.2 seed, Horacio Cifuentes, the no.6 seed, advanced as anticipated.

Better news for leading names

Quarter-final places for only two seeded places, in the under 21 women’s singles the number was higher. Japan’s Maki Shiomi, the top seed progressed, as did Spain’s Zhang Sofia-Xuan, the no.4 seed, Hungary’s Leonie Hartbricht, the no.5 seed, Russia’s Mariia Tailakova, the no.6 seed and Romania’s Andreea Dragoman, the no.7 seed.

Five players progressing as status advised; there were three casualties. All suffered at Chinese hands.

In the second round, the round to determine the quarter-finalists, India’s Archana Girish Kamath, the no.2 seed, lost to Wang Xiaotong, the no.21 seed (9-11, 11-7, 11-3, 11-8), Daria Trigolos, the no.3 seed, was beaten by Qi Fei, the no.12 seed (6-11, 11-7, 11-4, 12-10). Similarly, like Daria Trigolos from Belarus, Nadezhda Bogdanova, the no.8 seed, departed at the hands of Yang Yiyun, the no.22 seed (11-7, 11-9, 9-11, 11-2).


On Thursday 5th December, the first rounds of the men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles events will be played. Also, the men’s singles qualification round will be enacted; the under 21 men’s singles and under 21 women’s singles events will reach the semi-final stage.

Challenge Series 2019 North America Huang Fanzhen

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