by Ian Marshall, Editor
The top seed, in the deciding seventh game of his men’s singles quarter-final contest against Japan’s 16 year old Tomokazu Harimoto, the no.5 seed and defending champion, Xu Xin trailed 5-1 at the change of ends; then 10-8, before saving both match points. On his second opportunity he secured victory (11-6, 13-15, 11-5, 3-11, 9-11, 13-11, 13-11).
A dramatic win, earlier in the day life had been less fraught. At the mixed doubles semi-final stage, occupying the no.3 seeded position in partnership with Liu Shiwen, a straight games win had been posted against Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yin-Ju and Cheng I-Ching, the no.2 seeds (11-3, 13-11, 11-1). The win was followed by men’s doubles success in harness with Fan Zhendong when opposing colleagues Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan, the no.3 seeds (11-9, 11-9, 11-9).
Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin, the no.2 seeds, now face Lin Yun-Ju and Chinese Taipei colleague, Liao Cheng-Ting, the no.7 seeds in the title decider; facing Germany’s Timo Boll and Patrick Franziska, the no.4 seeds, they saved one match point in the fifth game at 10-9, prior to securing three in a row to end European hopes (2-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5, 12-10).
Meanwhile, in the mixed doubles, Japan’s Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito, the no.4 seeds await; in the penultimate round, they overcame Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem, the top seeds (11-9, 11-2, 15-13) and winners one year ago in Incheon.
Success for Xu Xin against Tomokazu Harimoto was significant, he maintained his perfect record against his most worthy opponent; their closest contest to date but the second time Tomokazu Harimoto has come so near yet so far. Just over two years ago on the ITTF World Tour in Sweden, again Xu Xin escaped; he trailed by three games to one, before recovering to secure victory by the minimal margin in the decider (9-11, 4-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-9).
Significant but was the quarter-final win by colleague Lin Gaoyuan even more relevant? The no.3 seed, after overcoming Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the no.10 seed in the opening round (13-11, 11-9, 11-8, 4-11, 8-11, 11-4), he ended the hopes of Chinese Taipei’s 18 year old Lin Yun-Ju, the no.6 seed.
Furthermore, he succeeded in straight games (11-7, 11-9, 13-11, 11-9) and thus reversed the results of earlier this year. In June in the second round of the 2019 ITTF World Tour Lion Japan Open, he had suffered against Lin Yun-Ju, after winning the opening two games (9-11, 9-11, 21-19, 11-9, 11-7, 11-9); later in November at the T2 Diamond in Singapore, in the same round, he had experienced a straight games defeat (11-6, 11-10, 11-8, 11-8).
Impressive from Lin Gaoyuan, it was the same from Brazil’s Hugo Calderano, the no.8 seed, he beat Japan’s Jun Mizutani, the no.15 seed, in five games (11-6, 11-9, 12-14, 11-4, 11-6) and now meets China’s Fan Zhendong, the no.2 seed, in the quarter-finals.
Remember last year; in the same round in Incheon, they met at the same stage, Hugo Calderano won in six games (11-6,12-10, 4-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-9); déjà vu in Zhengzhou?
A familiar face awaiting Hugo Calderano, an even more familiar face will be the semi-final opponent for Xu Xin; either Liang Jingkun, the no.7 seed or Ma Long, the no.4 seed.
Ma Long reserved his quarter-final place by beating Korea Republic’s Jeoung Youngsik, the no.14 seed (8-11, 11-6, 10-12, 11-2, 11-7, 11-3). In the same round, the previous day, Liang Jingkun had ousted Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting, the no.16 seed (11-4, 11-6, 11-8, 11-1).
Progress for the reigning world champion in the guise of Ma Long; not in the women’s singles event, Chen Meng extracted revenge.
The no.3 seed and winner at the two most recent Grand Finals editions, Chen Meng reversed the decision of the title decider earlier this year in April, when she had lost to Liu Shiwen in the women’s singles final at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships (9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 11-0, 11-9). In Zhengzhou she prevailed in seven games (11-7, 11-7, 9-11, 6-11, 9-11, 11-5, 11-1).
Thus for Liu Shiwen hopes of a fourth ITTF World Tour Grand Finals women’s singles title evaporated; colleague Zhang Yining continues to stand alone.
A hard earned victory for Chen Meng; in the opening round it had been just as hard earned. She had to recover from a three games to one deficit against 19 year old colleague, Qian Tianyi, the no.16 seed and on duty for the first time in a Grand Finals (11-7, 8-11, 10-12, 12-14, 13-11, 11-8, 11-6) to secure victory.
Japan’s Mima Ito, the no.2 seed, now awaits in the semi-finals; by the very narrowest of decisions, she accounted for Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, the no.14 seed (10-12, 11-6, 7-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-3, 12-10), prior to rather less dramatically overcoming compatriot, Hitomi Sato, the no.15 seed (11-7, 11-7, 13-11, 11-5) to reserve her last four place.
Meanwhile, awaiting in the opposite half of the draw are the names of China’s Wang Manyu and Wang Yidi. The no.4 seed and winner the previous day in opposition colleague Zhu Yuling, the no.9 seed (11-8, 11-6, 11-6, 11-6, 11-6), Wang Manyu accounted for compatriot Chen Xingtong, the no.5 seed (11-6, 7-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-4) to reserve her semi-final place. Notably one round earlier, Chen Xingtong had beaten Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, the no.12 seed, in a most impressive straight games manner (11-3, 11-7, 11-9, 11-5).
Impressive from Wang Manyu, it was the same from Wang Yidi; on Grand Finals’ debut, having on the opening day ousted Japan’s Miu Hirano, the no.10 seed (11-6, 11-7, 11-6, 6-11, 11-5), she beat teammate and top seed, Sun Yingsha (13-11, 11-5, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8) to secure her semi-final berth. Earlier in the day Sun Yingsha had ousted compatriot, He Zhuojia, the no.13 seed (11-7, 9-11, 9-11, 11-2, 11-8, 11-4), last year’s runner up.
World junior champions prevail
Disappointment for Sun Yingsha and there was further disappointment. Partnering Wang Manyu, the player who in April she had partnered to gold at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships, the no.3 seeds, they experienced a semi-final defeat at the hands of Japan’s Miyuu Kihara and Miyu Nagasaki, the top seeds, the pair who just under two weeks ago had won the girls’ doubles title at the NSDF World Junior Championships in Kato.
Quite incredibly Miyuu Kihara, 15 years old and Miyu Nagasaki two years her senior, saved no less than an overall total of five match points before securing victory (3-11, 4-11, 11-3, 14-12, 14-12).
In the final, Korea Republic’s Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun, the no.2 seeds, await; they booked their place in the title decider courtesy of success against Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu and Cheng Hsien-Tzu, the no.4 seeds (8-11, 11-3, 11-6, 11-8).
On Saturday 14th December, the mixed doubles final will be played, the names of the finalists in the remaining events – men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles – will be known.