by Kabir Nagpal
So, after that exhilarating week of ITTF World Tour Japan Open action, are you ready to take the toughest decision yet?
Who receives your vote for best Male and Female Athlete performance in the Japan Open? Here are the nominees:
Feng Tianwei secures impressive gold (2014)
In 2014 in Yokohama, it was intensity at its highest as Feng Tianwei crossed swords with the home crowd favourite, Kasumi Ishikawa. As someone who is considered the main face of Singapore table tennis, it came as no surprise when one saw the careful style with which Feng accounted for Ishikawa in this final.
World no.4 at the time, Feng recorded a strong 4-2 (12-10, 9-11, 3-11, 11-3, 11-5, 13-11) win in the final, despite Ishikawa threatening a menacing comeback. Take another look at the match and decide if the Singaporean veteran gets your vote!
Ito/Harimoto create Japan’s moment of glory (2018)
The Land of the Rising Sun was up in full voice in 2018, as two teenagers upset the order of play. Tomokazu Harimoto and Mima Ito stood up with their home support behind them and left a mark in table tennis like never before.
First, young Mima Ito went up against China’s Wang Manyu in the women’s singles’ final, and won in a tremendous contest of six games (11-7, 12-10, 8-11, 11-7, 6-11, 12-10), becoming the second Japanese player to win the women’s singles title in the history of the Japan Open.
The success was shortly followed by a true classic in the men’s final as Japanese prodigy Tomokazu Harimoto defeated the legendary Zhang Jike from China in a dramatic seven games epic in Kitakyushu (9-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-4, 10-12, 11-7, 13-11).
Oh Sangeun wins a nail-biter (2008)
There was no shortage of quality in table tennis, and over a decade ago when Korea Republic’s Oh Sangeun took on Germany’s Patrick Baum in the 2008 Japan Open men’s singles’ final, that statement was proved and how!
In a match made for the ages, Oh Sangeun saw himself playing a pendulum match against his German opponent, who did not make any point easy to win, or any rally short enough to squeeze in a winner. Eventually, the Asian athlete used his stamina and persistence to win 4-3 (7-11, 13-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-6), in a match so zealous for both athletes, they took a moment to breathe at the table as the final point was played!
Sun Yingsha’s run to the title, beating Chen Meng (2017)
It was the perfect example of student meeting the master, as teenage prodigy Sun Yingsha came through a qualifying session to go all the way and win a thrilling finale against the current world no. 1 Chen Meng at the 2017 ITTF World Tour Japan Open women’s singles final.
Having already secured the women’s doubles gold with Chen Xingtong, Sun was making heads turn even before the final. She stayed turned in her direction when she recovered from 1-3 down to beat Chen 4-3 (9-11, 11-9, 8-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-8).
“I’m excited about winning this, especially having to come back from three-one down at the start. It have never crossed my mind that I could win both the Women’s Singles and Women’s Doubles gold here in Tokyo. I think because it’s my senior event, so I have no pressure or mental burden on myself. I was just playing my best for each & every match.” Sun Yingsha
Xu Xin’s triple crown (2019)
China’s Xu Xin truly made sure the world number one ranking had his named etched in after his immaculate performance in Sapporo. All it took was three (!) gold medals – the men’s doubles with Fan Zhendong, the mixed doubles with Zhu Yuling and of course, a momentous men’s singles title.
The 2019 Japan Open men singles’ final was his crowning moment, after he had seen off the likes of Fan Zhendong in the semi-final. Chinese Taipei’s in-form Lin Yun-Ju was up against the Cloudwalker, and it was only a matter of time before Xu won 4-1 to become only the second athlete ever to win a triple crown on the World Tour.