By Ian Marshall, Editor
Places in the mixed doubles quarter-finals at stake on the opening day of play, Saturday 24th July, at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games; Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu and Bernadette Szocs emerged as the pair to attract the attention.
The Romanian number 9 seeds upset the order. They beat Slovakia’s Lubomir Pistej and Barbora Balazova, the number 5 seeds (11-8, 11-8, 12-14, 11-4, 11-9) to cause the only first-round surprise.
Leading pairs prevail
Otherwise, it was success for the leading pairs but there were early problems for China’s Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen, the top seeds. They took time to settle, they had to recover from an opening-round deficit to beat Canada’s Wang Zhen and Zhang Mo, seeded fifteenth (9-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-8, 11-6).
Success for Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen, it was the same for the host nation’s Jun Mizutani and Mima Ito, the no.2 seeds, Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju and Cheng I-Ching, the number 3 seeds and Hong Kong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting and Doo Hoi Kem, the number 4 seeds, all booked last eight places
The quarter and semi-finals of the mixed doubles event will be played on Sunday 25th July.
Mixed doubles: quarter-finals
- Xu Xin / Liu Shiwen (CHN) v Ovidiu Ionescu / Bernadette Szocs (ROU)
- Wong Chun Ting / Doo Hoi Kem (HKG) v Emmanuel Lebesson / Yuan Jianan (FRA)
- Lin Yun-Ju / Cheng I-Ching (TPE) v Lee Sangsu / Jeon Jihee (KOR)
- Jun Mizutani / Mima Ito (JPN) v Patrick Franziska / Petrissa Solja (GER)
Debutants cause upsets
Singapore’s Clarence Chew, Hong Kong’s Lam Siu Hang and Nikhil Kumar of the United States emerged as the players to cause opening-round men’s singles upsets; all three making their Olympic Games debut.
Clarence Chew, the 57th seed, accounted for Senegal’s Ibrahima Diaw, the 43rd seed (11-4, 4-11, 11-3, 13-11, 3-11, 12-10); Hong Kong’s Lam Sui Hang, seeded 50, overcame Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador, the 48th seed (7-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-6, 11-4, 12-14, 11-8).
Soon after, Nikhil Kumar, the 55th seed, who had beaten Mongolia Lkhagvasuren, the 65th seed, in the preliminary round (11-2, 11-6, 7-11, 11-5, 11-8), maintained his form to overcome Ecuador’s Alberto Miño, the 46th seed (8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-7, 11-13, 11-8).
Surprise outcomes but not for the leading names on first day men’s singles duty.
Croatia’s Andrej Gacina, Panagiotis Gionis of Greece and Great Britain’s Paul Drinkhall all enjoyed success. Unfortunately, the Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek, the 34th seed, having been diagnosed COVID-19 positive, was unable to compete.
Portuguese recovery, Hungarian travails
After progress for the leading names in the first-round action of the men’s singles event, it was the same for the top three in the counterpart women’s competition but not for the fourth.
Russia’s Yana Noskova and India’s Manika Batra enjoyed success as did Portugal’s Shao Jieni who performed the recovery of the day. The 34th seed, facing Sweden’s Christina Källberg, the 57th seed, lost the first three games, before winning four in a row (8-11, 9-11, 10-12, 11-6, 11-5, 11-8, 11-6). Thus, she avenged the defeat suffered recently at the Liebherr 2020 European Individual Championships.
Success for the top three names on opening day duty but not for the fourth in line; Hungary’s Dora Madarasz, the 36th seed emerged as the biggest casualty of the day. She was beaten by Nigeria’s Offiong Edem, the 53rd seed (11-8, 11-9, 11-9, 9-11, 11-4).
A first-round women’s singles win contrary to status for Offiong Edem, it was the same for Thailand’s Orawan Paranang, India’s Sutirtha Mukherjee, Liu Juan of the United States, Bulgaria’s Polona Trifonova, Australia’s Jian Fang Lay and Austria’s Liu Jia.
Orawan Paranang, seeded 49, beat Puerto Rico’s Melanie Diaz, seeded 37 (13-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-7), Sutirtha Mukherjee, the number 52 seed, overcame Sweden’s Linda Bergström, the number 39 seed (5-11, 11-9, 11-13, 9-11, 11-3, 11-9, 11-5). Similarly, Liu Juan, the 68th seed, accounted for Spain’s Galia Dvorak, the 45th seed (11-9, 4-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-8), Polona Trifonova, seeded 66, eventually overcame Luxembourg’s Sarah de Nutte, seeded 41 (6-11, 11-6, 4-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-8).
Not be overshadowed and making use of reservoirs of experience, 48-year-old Jian Fang Lay, the no.58 seed, beat Italy’s Debora Vivarelli, the no.40 seed (11-7, 5-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-2); Liu Jia, now 39 years of age, the no.55 seed, negotiated the defensive skills of Ukraine’s Ganna Gaponova, the no.38 seed (11-4, 6-11, 6-11, 11-4, 11-3, 11-3).
The win for Liu Jia followed a preliminary round success in opposition to Syria’s 12-year-old Hend Zaza, the number 70 seed, the youngest player on duty in any sport in the whole Tokyo Olympic Games. Liu Jia prevailed in straight games (11-4, 11-9, 11-3, 11-5).