Players from the Korea Republic were very much to the fore on the opening day of play, Friday 9th September, at the 2022 Finland Para Open in Lahti, especially in the men’s singles wheelchair category.
Kim Hakjin, Lee Kyeonghun and Park Jaehyun all caused upsets by overcoming top seeded opponents in their initial phase matches; most significantly all remained unbeaten to secure group first places.
Competing in class 1, Kim Hakjin recorded a most noteworthy success; he accounted for Great Britain’s Rob Davies (8-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-9), memorably the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games gold medallist.
Likewise, in class 4, Lee Kyeonghun overcame Slovakia’s Peter Mihalik (11-4, 7-11, 11-8, 12-10), earlier this year the winner at the Czech Para Open; not to be overshadowed in class 5, Park Jaehyun beat Chinese Taipei Cheng Minh-Chih (11-8, 11-8, 11-9), the winner two years ago when the tournament was held in Pajulahti (11-8, 11-8, 11-9).
Significantly, it was the only defeat for the three celebrated names, all progressed to the main draw; Rob Davies and Lee Kyeonghun directly to the semi-finals, Cheng Min-Chih to the quarter-finals where he defeated Japan’s Ryota Nakamura (11-5, 11-4, 11-7).
Thus, with the Koreans all through to the penultimate round, and in the opposite half of the draw, the finals could witness the group stage contests repeated.
Three surprises in the men’s singles events on the opening day; there was one in the women’s singles.
In class 11, an event comprising five players, organised on an all-play-all basis, Poland’s Ewa Cychowska overcame Thailand’s Wanna Sayeyang, the top seed (11-8, 11-2, 11-6). Ewa Cychowska ended the day the only unbeaten player in the event.
Otherwise, the top seeded players emerged unscathed.
Present in the men’s singles, it was a profitable day in the wheelchair events for Mexico’s Victor Reyes (class 2) and Frenchman Sylvain Noel (class 3), a situation that applied also in the standing competitions.
Great Britain’s Paul Karabardak (class 6) and Will Bayley (class 7) ended the day without blemish as did Sweden’s Emil Andersson and Chinese Taipei’s Su Jin San (class 10). It was the same for Belgium’s Laurens Devos (class 9) and Florian van Acker (class 11).
Similarly, in the women’s singles Korea Republic’s Jung Younga (class 1-5) ended the day unbeaten, a situation that applied also to Sweden’s Cajsa Stadler (class 6-7), Norway’s Aida Dahlen (class 8) and Chinese Taipei’s Tian Shiao-Wen (class 9-10).
Notable performances, for the host nation, Timo Natunen and Aino Tapola caught the eye.
On duty in men’s singles class 1, Timo Natunen turned the tables on the Korea Republic by beating Park Sunjoo, the no.2 seed (9-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7, 11-8), remaining unbeaten to top the group; for Park Junsoo it was his only reverse and thus a semi-final berth.
A medal awaits Timo Natunen, it is the same for Aino Tapola in women’s singles class 1. In the group stage, she was beaten by Korea Republc’s Jung Younga, the top seed (11-2, 11-7, 11-5) but recovered to overcome Mexico’s Martha Verdin (11-6, 11-8, 11-8) to reserve runners up spot and thus a semi-final place.
The men’s singles and women’s singles events conclude on Saturday 10th September.