by Simon Daish
Ma Long and Mattias Falck renew rivalry
Two players who last met face-to-face in one of the sport’s biggest title contests, China’s Ma Long and Sweden’s Mattias Falck announced their rivalry in the 2019 World Championships men’s singles final.
One year on and the two were at it again, this time on a different, yet just as glamourous stage with a semi-finals spot on the line at the 2020 ITTF Finals. Ma and Falck put on another exciting show for spectators to enjoy and, just as was the case in their previous meeting, it was the former of the two who prevailed (11-5, 7-11, 5-11, 11-6, 11-9, 13-11).
Korean star Jang Woojin in the form of his career
The surprise package of last week’s Dishang 2020 ITTF Men’s World Cup with his fourth position finish in Weihai, Korea Republic’s Jang Woojin has now backed that up with another guaranteed top four finish in Zhengzhou.
Putting his name amongst the opening day headlines with his incredible 4-3 victory over Japanese teenage sensation Tomokazu Harimoto, Jang survived another seven-game thriller on Day Two with the no.14 seed accounting for Chinese no.5 seed Lin Gaoyuan (11-7, 10-12, 1-11, 11-7, 12-10, 8-11, 11-6). No third-place play-off on the schedule, Jang will leave Zhengzhou with a medal to his name!
A gutsy performance sees Mima Ito through
Both bronze medallists last year when Zhengzhou also hosted the 2019 ITTF Finals, Japan’s Mima Ito and China’s Wang Yidi were drawn to meet one another in the quarter-finals of this year’s women’s singles event meaning one would achieve back-to-back medal finishes, while the other would miss out.
Heading into the contest, Wang held the psychological advantage over Ito having beaten the second seed from Japan in three of their previous four encounters. However, Ito showed great courage and determination to put her doubts behind her, emerging from their fifth head-to-head with a 4-3 win (6-11, 11-8, 11-13, 11-4, 11-7, 7-11, 11-5).
Sun Yingsha shows her maturity
Still only 20 years old, it’s easy sometimes to forget just how far Sun Yingsha has already come in her career. Today, Sun combined her youthful exuberance with a level head to seal her ticket to the last four of the draw.
Meeting a tricky customer in Suh Hyowon – the Korea Republic player who knocked 2014 champion Kasumi Ishikawa out in the Round of 16 – Sun also experienced her fair share of troubles against the defender, but kept her cool to fight back from behind on her way to victory (10-12, 11-6, 8-11, 11-3, 13-11, 11-5).
“I haven’t played against Suh Hyowon a lot, the last time was in 2019 and that was not an easy match. I watched her play against Ishikawa yesterday and she seemed to be well adjusted to the playing conditions and in good form. Playing a defender, it was energy draining for both of us so it was just trying to push each point, even if it was played to the seventh game, all I could do was to just keep playing. Today she played closer to the table and was more aggressive than before. The change in style did put some pressure on me.” Sun Yingsha
European and Pan American challenge draws to a halt
There will be no European or Pan American players involved in the closing two days of action after remaining hopefuls from the two regions bid their farewells.
In addition to Mattias Falck’s elimination to Ma Long, European dreams were dashed as Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Petrissa Solja tasted defeat at the hands of Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju (8-11, 11-3, 4-11, 11-9, 11-6, 12-10) and China’s Chen Meng (9-11, 10-12, 11-5, 11-5, 11-8, 11-6) respectively.
From a Pan American standpoint, Adriana Diaz’s ITTF Finals debut lasted just the one match with the young Puerto Rican talent losing out to Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching (9-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-5, 13-11). Meanwhile, “The Thrill from Brazil” Hugo Calderano didn’t have enough to topple defending champion Fan Zhendong on this occasion, falling to the top seed in five games (11-6, 13-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-9).