(by Steve Hopkins)
Wow. Just freaking WOW.
If you aren’t watching the World Table Tennis Championships, you should tune in to the livestream and catch the action on Saturday. Here’s what you missed today:
USA’s Kanak Jha is through to the Final 16. Jha faced off against a very tough defensive player, Germany’s Ruwen Filus, and Jha dominated. The score was 4-1 launching Jha into the Final 16 where he will face Timo Boll. The winner will be guaranteed a medal. Jha is having a great tournament in front of his home crowd – perhaps that says something to the ITTF, as this is the first time a tournament of this magnitude has been hosted in the US. Its nice to hear audience chants for US players, as opposed to our players facing hostile audiences in other countries. Go TeamUSA.
Boll has only played two singles matches. He had a bye on the first day, he topped China’s Zhou Qihao 4-1 on the second day, he swept Pang 4-0 on Thursday, and his opponent on Friday (Yang Wang) was unable to play due to COVID protocols. It will be interesting to see if the break benefits the 40 year old Boll, or if it takes him a while to get his footing.
The other three singles matchups tomorrow are Fan Zhendong versus Lin Gaoyuan, Liang Jingkun versus Hugo Calderano, and Truls Moregard versus Quadri Aruna. The first four names on that list are all as expected by seed. Truls and Quadri, however, are both surprises. Truls has pulled off three upsets in a row to advance this far (topping Chuang Chih-Yuan 4-3, and Patrick Franziska 4-3, and Lim Jonghoon 4-3. Quadri’s path became easier when the only player in his bracket ranked higher, Mattias Falck, was upset by Cassin. Kristian Karlsson then dispensed with Cassin, and Quadri outlasted Karlsson in a 7 game Round of 32 Match.
The Women’s Singles saw six of the eight highest seeds advance. Chen Meng, Kasumi Ishikawa, Wang Manyu, Mima Ito, Wang Yidi, and Sun Yingsha all took care of business and are right where they were expected to be. Suh Hyowon of Korea upset Feng Tianwei 4-3 to punch her ticket, and Cheng Xingtong pulled off a slight upset over Cheng I-Ching as well. The biggest story may be that World No. 1 needed a seventh game to beat Japan’s Miu Hirano (4-3) in a great match that included comebacks by both players.
American fans have been following Mixed Doubles very closely as we had two pairs of China/USA teams entered (in honor of the 50th Anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy). One of those teams fell just short today as Kank Jha and Wang Manyu lost 3-2 to the higher ranked Indian team (both Jha and Manyu won their singles matches later in the day). The other pair of Lin Gaoyuan and Lily Zhang dominated the Russian Team of Skachkov/Vorobeva to advance to the Final 16. Gaoyuan and Zhang are one win away from a medal – that match will be against France’s Jia Nan Yuan and Emmanuel Lebesson.
Men’s Doubles progressed largely as expected – not all exactly by seed, but with the teams that have high ranked singles players advancing. Perhaps the two biggest surprises are the English pair of Drinkhall and Pitchford who will play Japan’s Togami/Uda team tomorrow, and the Swedish pair of Karlsson and Falck who will play the Chinese team of Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin. The other two Quarterfinal matches are Gaoyuan/Jinkun versus Qiu/Duda, and Ho/Wong versus Jang/Lim.
In Women’s Doubles, only one of the top seeded pairs has advanced to the Final 8: Japan’s Ishikawa/Hirano. The Ishikawa/Hirano team will face China’s Wang/Sun team. Batra and Kamath from India will face De Nutte and Xia Lian Ni. Dragoman and Samara will face Japan’s Ito and Hayata. And Choi Hyojoo and Lee Zion will face China’s Qian Tianyi and Chen Meng.
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