(by Steve Hopkins/Photo by ITTF)
The LION ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup 2019 concluded today in Yokohama, Japan. The competitive field included five of the world’s top 10 including Fan Zhendong (World No.1), Tomokazu Harimoto (World No. 4 and hometown favorite), and Ma Long (World No. 11, but recovered from his injuries and just a week since he went undefeated to win the Qatar Open).
Unlike many events where the top players receive byes and are seeded into the main draw, the Asian Cup requires everyone to qualify through group play, with the top two advancing. Fan Zhendong won Group A easily with 3-1, 3-1, and 3-0 scores and Wong Chun Ting of Hong Kong also advanced from the group. Group B included both Harimoto and Ma Long, and it was Ma Long finishing first and Harimoto finishing second. Group C included Lee Sangsu as the top seed and Koki Niwa as second seed, and they finished as the top two – but with Niwa upsetting Lee to take the top spot.
In the knock-out stage, it was the four highest seeds who advanced, with Harimoto facing Fan Zhendong and Niwa Koki facing Ma Long. One Japanese player was represented in both semifinal matches to excite the home crowd, but unfortunately no Japanese victories. Ma Long won 4-0, and Fan Zhendong won 4-1, making the final an all-Chinese affair. In the final, Fan Zhendong continued his recent dominance over Ma Long, securing another Asian title, and cementing his space on top of the World Rankings.
The women’s singles event also ended with an all Chinese final. Zhu Yuling overcame Singapore’s Feng Tianwei in one semifinal. In the other semifinal, Chen Meng defeated Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa. The final was Zhu Yuling over Chen Meng (4-2).