by Kabir Nagpal
Fine points to note…….
A first and a fifth
India’s Jeet Chandra and Japan’s Maki Shiomi won the respective under 21 men’s and women’s singles titles. Notably for Jeet Chandra it was a milestone; it was his first such success. For Maki Shiomi, though, this was familiar territory. Marking her fifth gong in Oman, she had previously won on the ITTF World Tour in 2017 in China as well as at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments in 2019 in Paraguay, earlier this year in Spain and Portugal.
She beat Spain’s Sofia-Xuan Zhang 3-1 (14-12, 5-11, 11-6, 11-7), despite the best efforts of her European opponent. In the under 21 men’s final, which happened to be an Indian domestic, Chandra saw off the title favourite, Manav Vikash Thakkar in straight games (11-6, 11-7, 13-11), in 25 minutes.
Flore and Gasnier complete dream
In the mixed doubles’ final today, Tristan Flore and Laura Gasnier beat Spain’s Alvaro Robles and Maria Xiao (11-7, 11-5, 11-7). The French pairing had to settle for silver last month at the 2020 ITTF Challenge Plus Portugal Open in Lisbon. However, things changed drastically in Muscat.
Having been seeded second, Flore and Gasnier entered proceedings as big contenders for silverware and looked impressive in the lead up to the final. They now take home their first, and well deserved, trophies on the international stage.
Seeded pairs make for engaging final prospect
If there’s one thing to be learnt from today above all else, it is that we should never doubt the seeds! In the women’s doubles event, the top two seeds made it across the fixture list and will clash for the gold tomorrow.
Top seeds from Japan Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato beat the in-form Barbora Balazova and Tatiana Kukulkova from Slovakia 3-1 (11-4, 11-7, 5-11, 11-8). Meanwhile, the no.2 seeds, Singapore’s Lin Ye and Zeng Jian, a 3-1 victory over India’s Diya Parag Chitale and Archana Girish Kamath (7-11, 11-1, 12-10, 11-9) sees them contest for the top of the podium.
Indians find their feet
It was not all bad news for the Indians in Muscat though – the smart and fast duo of Harmeet Desai and Sharath Kamal Achanta have been the talk of Oman Open and for just more than their style of play.
Their grit and ability to seal wins when in doubt has put them through to the last four of the men’s singles event. The performance of Desai versus Spain’s Alvaro Robles (11-9, 11-5, 11-8, 8-11, 11-1) was almost resonated by Achanta when he faced Finland’s Benedek Olah (11-7, 10-12, 11-3, 11-8, 11-6) – keeping India’s flag flying high in the competition.
Four Europeans walk in, one qualifies
It may not be much of a bar joke, but something is definitely worth learning from the activities today. There were four women representing the European continent in the women’s singles quarter-finals, and yet just the one came away with a semi-final slot.
Monaco’s Yang Xiaoxin was the odd-one-out but in a good way when she defeated fellow European Yuan Jia Nan (11-4, 11-4, 11-9, 11-5) from France. For the remaining two, it was not to be the best of evenings. Luxembourg’s Sarah De Nutte fell to Hitomi Sato (11-4, 11-7, 11-8, 11-5) in a defensive master class from the Japanese. The highest seeded of the group, Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova, lost out to the no.3 seed and veteran Miyu Kato (11-3, 9-11, 11-4, 11-1, 11-7) despite levelling things up really early.