by Kabir Nagpal
Jang Woojin completes clean sweep
The 2018 ITTF World Tour Korea Open in Daejeon saw home favourite Jang Woojin giving the fans exactly what they wanted as he completed a clean sweep of titles. Having secured the men’s doubles in partnership with Lim Jonghoon and the mixed doubles alongside DPR Korea’s Cha Hyo Sim, when the moment of the men’s singles final arrived, you could sense that his glory was written in the stars.
Facing China’s Liang Jingkun, it was poetry in motion watching Jang play, as he dismantled his Asian opponent’s challenge and recorded a 4-0 (11-8, 11-8, 11-7, 11-3) win. He thus became the first player to win all three titles at the same tournament.
Deep drama for Suh Hyowon and Ishikawa
In what is often believed to be the most dramatic final of all in the tournament’s history, one of Korea Republic’s very own recorded her very first ITTF World Tour women’s singles title in 2013. After beating Singapore’s Feng Tianwei in the last 16 (12-14, 13-11, 11-3, 12-10, 11-6), her journey to the final saw her win in straight games over Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching in the quarter-final, but need six games in the semi-final versus Hong Kong China’s Lee Ho Ching (7-11, 11-5, 13-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8).
The final itself was a seven-game thriller against Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa. A true classic, it saw neither athlete giving any room to the other, as the scores were levelled first at 1-1, then at 2-2, and finally 3-3. Finally, it came down to the decider, where at 9-9, the crowd held their breath before Suh scored those two invaluable points and clinch an unforgettable victory (11-8, 5-11, 11-7, 9-11, 12-10, 5-11, 11-9).
Schlager and Boll set the stage alight
At the very start of the new millennium, there were two male athletes setting the course of action in nearly every tournament, and both happened to be European. The 2002 ITTF World Tour Korea Open saw both Werner Schlager and upcoming youngster Timo Boll clash in what was a stunning final in Gangneung City.
Austria’s Schlager had beaten hosts’ Ryu Seungmin in the semi-final (11-5, 11-4, 11-3, 7-11, 11-9) and that brought him a certain amount of momentum that proved critical in the final. Facing Germany’s Boll in the showpiece decider, Schlager found himself against a tidy opponent who was impossible to tire. The 1999 Australian Open winner eventually found a way past the German, recording a special 4-2 win (11-7, 7-11, 11-7, 15-13, 5-11, 12-10) that boosted his confidence in the season and made him world champion the following year.
Double the trouble, Wong and Doo
It takes something special to beat the Chinese, we all know that, but to beat the Chinese pairing who have not lost a single match in the final? That’s extra special.
Last year in Busan, Hong Kong China’s Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem provided a taste of that extra special experience for all the fans in the stadium, as they beat China’s Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen in the mixed doubles final 3-1 (11-9, 11-8, 6-11, 13-11), the only career loss ever experienced by Xu and Liu in a mixed doubles event. It all came down to the impressive pen-hold and shake-hand partnership of Wong and Doo, which is the same formula adopted by the Chinese duo and most of the world’s leading mixed doubles pairs. However, a left hander partnering a right hander, as with Xu and Liu, is the popular option. Notably, Wong and Doo are both right handed.
Feng Tianwei comes back for more
After having claimed her first-ever ITTF World Tour women’s singles title on Korean soil in 2011, Singapore’s Feng Tianwei replicated the feat six years later in Incheon.
Facing the Japanese second seed Kasumi Ishikawa in the final, Feng prevailed in a hard-fought contest which lasted six games (12-10, 6-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-8, 11-9), as the left handed, shake-hand grip, fast attacking style of Ishikawa just about pushed the veteran into a corner, but Feng found her way out.
“Before the match, I felt very nervous but very excited at the same time to be reaching the women’s singles final. I am just very happy that I could win! For me the feeling for the new ball is very good and I like it. Maybe this way I have a chance for the world title! At the moment I don’t practise with the national team in Singapore, although I live there. I am practising in different clubs and with different private sparring partners. Sometimes I even go to China for training.” Feng Tianwei