12 Dec 2019

Reigning Olympic champion, China’s Ding Ning emerged the biggest casualty on the opening day of play, Thursday 12th December, at the Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Zhengzhou.

The winner in Lisbon in 2015, she fell at the first hurdle but was not alone amongst the list of previous gold medallists at the prestigious end of year event, to suffer an early exit.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

In addition, in the women’s singles, colleague Zhu Yuling departed proceedings in round one, as in the men’s singles did Germany’s Timo Boll and in the men’s doubles the Korea Republic pairing of Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu.

Ding Ning, the no.7 seed, suffered at the hands of Japanese defender, Hitomi Sato, the no.15 seed and suffered for the second time this year. In June in Sapporo they had met at in the second round at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum Lion Japan Open; on that occasion Hitomi Sato had won in six games (12-10, 6-11, 3-11, 12-10, 11-6, 11-9); in Zhengzhou she prevailed by a very similar margin (4-11, 11-4, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-4).

A second defeat in a row for Ding Ning at the hands of Hitomi Sato; for Zhu Yuling, who had won in 2016 in Doha, it was five in succession. The no.9 seed, she was beaten by colleague Wang Manyu; the 20 year old who thus maintained her unblemished record when facing her compatriot on the international scene.

Wang Manyu ended the hopes of Zhu Yuling (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Better and better

Recent results suggest the defeats experienced by Ding Ning and Zhu Yuling were no great upsets. It was the same for Timo Boll, the no.9 seed, a result that underlined the increasing good form of his opponent.

Just under one month ago on the ITTF World Tour in Austria, Timo Boll had come within whisker of beating Fan Zhendong (11-2, 4-11, 11-13, 8-11, 11-3, 11-5, 14-12). Somewhat differently, at the Men’s World Cup in Chengdu there had been no great moments of drama when they met, Fan Zhendong had prevailed in five games (11-6, 11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 12-10). In Zhengzhou, Fan Zhendong, the no.2 seed, was in no mood for charity, a close contest but a straight games win was the order of the day (11-5, 18-16, 12-10, 11-7).

Farewell to Timo Boll, who had won in 2005 in Fuzhou, it was the same for Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu, the men’s doubles champions in 2016 in Doha. The top seeds, they experienced defeat when facing Chinese Taipei’s Liao Cheng-Ting and Lin Yun-Ju, the no.7 seeds (11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 11-1). The defeat brought to an end a dismal year for Lee Sangsu; he fell short of qualifying for the Grand Finals in the men’s singles as well as the mixed doubles with Jeon Jihee.

Lee Sangsu (foreground) and (rear) Jeoung Youngsik experienced an opening round exit (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Focus of attention

Contests that caught the eye but of course much attention focused on the mixed doubles; win and a place in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was reserved. Matters advanced according to seeding.

Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem, the top seeds beat Slovakia’s Lubomir Pistej and Barbora Balazova, the no.2 seeds (12-10, 11-9, 11-7); Japan’s Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito the no.4 seeds accounted for Tristan Flore and Laura Gasnier, the no.7 seeds (11-7, 11-6, 11-6). In the opposite half of the draw, China’s Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen, the no.3 seeds, overcame Korea Republic’s Cho Daeseong and Shin Yubin, the no.5 seeds (11-3, 11-5, 13-11); Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching, the no.2 seeds, halted the aspirations of Hungary’s Adam Szudi and Szandra Pergel (11-7, 11-3, 11-4).

However, as the host nation, Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito automatically qualify; thus a further place for the mixed doubles event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games becomes available.

The pertinent regulation reads:

“Any unused quota places obtained at the World Tour Grand Finals / World Tour 2020 tournaments will be reallocated to the next best-placed eligible mixed doubles pair, not yet qualified, from the May 2020 ITTF Olympic Mixed Doubles Ranking list.”

Jun Mizutani (rear) waits in anticipation as Mima Ito serves (Photo: Rémy Gros)
According to status

Meanwhile, as play progressed on the opening day in Zhengzhou, predominantly matters advanced as status advised.

In the men’s singles, Xu Xin, the top seed, beat colleague Zhao Zihao, the no.12 seed (5-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-8, 11-4), colleague Liang Jingkun, the no.7 seed, overcame Wong Chun Ting, the no.16 seed (11-4, 11-6, 11-8, 11-1). Not to be upstaged, Lin Yu-Ju, the no.6 seed, halted the progress of Sweden’s Mattias Falck, the no.13 seed (11-7, 11-9, 13-11, 11-9).

Likewise, in the women’s singles, Liu Shiwen the no.6 seed, ousted Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.11 seed (11-7, 14-12, 11-7, 11-9), compatriot Wang Yidi, the no.8 seed, ended the hopes of Japan’s Miu Hirano, the no.10 seed (11-6, 11-7, 11-6, 6-11, 11-5).

Wang Yidi dented Japanese hopes by beating Miu Hirano (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Austria repeated

Similarly, in the men’s doubles with the exception of Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu it was success for the leading pairs; however there was a close call.

Just under one month ago at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum Austrian Open, in the first round Timo Boll and Patrick Franziska had beaten colleagues Benedikt Duda and Qiu Dang by the very narrowest of margins (10-12, 8-11, 13-11, 11-4, 11-9).

In the opening round in Zhengzhou, the no.4 seeds, they repeated the feat, again succeeding by the minimal margin in the decider (9-11, 12-10, 11-5, 8-11, 11-9). Benedikt Duda and Qiu Dang commenced play the no.6 seeds.

Timo Boll (left) and (right) Patrick Franziska once again successful by the very narrowest of decisions (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Record maintained

Timo Boll and Patrick Franziska appear in the same half of the draw as Liao Cheng-Ting and Lin Yun-Yu. In the opposite half, all China contests witnesses Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin, the no.2 seeds, facing Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan, the no.3 seeds.

Impressively, in round one Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin beat Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit and Wong Chun Ting, the no.5 seeds (11-7, 11-5, 11-3); Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan overcame Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-An and Chuang Chih-Yuan, the no.8 seeds (11-9, 5-11, 13-11, 11-7).

Thus Chen Chien-An and Chuang Chih-Yuan maintained their somewhat unwanted record. Crowned world champions in 2013, as a pair they have never reached a men’s doubles final on the ITTF World Tour or at the Grand Finals!

A first round defeat for Chen Chien-An (left) and (right) Chuang Chih-Yuan (Photo: Rémy Gros)
World champions progress

Success for China, it was the same in the women’s doubles; Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu, the no.3 seeds and reigning world champions, beat Hong Kong’s Ng Wing Nam and Minnie Soo Wai Yam, the no.8 seeds (11-7, 13-11, 11-7).

They now meet top seeds, Japanese teenagers Miyu Kihara and Miyu Nagasaki. They progressed courtesy of success against the combination of Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova and the Czech Republic’s Hana Matelova (11-9, 6-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-4).

Progress for the top seeds, in the opposite half of the draw it was the same for the next in the order of merit. Korea Republic’s Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun overcame Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem and Lee Ho Ching, the no.7 seeds (11-9, 11-9, 5-11, 11-4). Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu and Cheng Hsien-Tzu, the no.4 seeds await; in the opening round they ended the hopes of Japan’s Miu Hirano and Saki Shibata, the no.5 seeds (11-9, 7-11, 11-6, 11-9).

A semi-final place for Cheng Hsien-Tzu (rear) and (foreground) Chen Szu-Yu (Photo: Rémy Gros)


On Friday 13th December, the men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles semi-finals will be played; the opening round and quarter-finals of the women’s singles will be enacted. Likewise, the men’s singles first round will be completed as well as two quarter-finals.

2019 Grand Finals Ding Ning Timo Boll Zhu Yuling

No results found.

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Day 4 - Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals