(by Steve Hopkins/Photo by ITTF)
The Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum Australian Open was played this week in Geelong, a suburb of Melbourne located on the Southeastern coast of Australia. Xu Xin, who rose to the World’s Top Spot in the rankings in July won the tournament. Xu also won the Korean Open last week, so he has now won both of the July Tour events.
Because the seedings were based upon the June rankings, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin were in the same half of the draw, setting up a potential high leverage meeting of these two top players in the Semifinals. That match, however, never happened. Fan Zhendong fell in the Round of 16 to Germany’s Patrick Franziska 4-2. Franziska went out to defeat Mattias Falck 4-3 in the Quarterfinals, setting up a Franziska/Xu Semifinal Match.
In the other half of the draw it was all China. Wang Chuqin took out Harimoto 4-0 and Pitchford 4-0 before defeating teammate Liang Jingkun in one Quarterfinal. And second seeded Ling Gaoyuan defeated Sun Wen 4-0 and Lee Sangsu 4-3 to reach the Quarterfinals where he faced Ma Long who had eliminated Dimitrij Ovtcharov. Ma Long dominated that Quarterfinal match, eliminated Lin 4-0.
The Semifinals were great entertainment in Australia on Sunday. Xu Xin won the first and third games only to find himself down 2-3 and tied at 9 in what could have been the deciding game. But Xu won the final two points to tie up the match, and then battled is a great seventh game for a 12-10 win. And in the other Semifinal, Wang Chuqin won the first and third games only to find himself tied 2-2 with one of the most experienced players on the tour, Ma Long. However, Chuqin out distanced Ma Long in each of the last two games to win 4-2. This set up a final between the newly crowned World No. 1 Xu Xin, and the tournament’s fourth seed, Wang Chuqin. Unlike the Semifinals, there was very little drama in the Final. Xu Xin dominated the first game and never took his foot off of the gas. Xu Xin over Wang Chuqin 4-0 (6, 8, 4, 8).
There were some early surprises in the Women’s Singles event. World No. 1 Chen Meng fell to Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa in the Quarterfinals. World No. 5 Wang Manyu fell to rising 18 year-old Chinese star player Sun Yingsha in the opening round. World No. 4 Zhu Yuling also fell in the opening round, to Sun Mingyang. The Quarterfinals matched these two young Chinese players, where Yingsha topped Mingyang 4-1. This set up a Semifinal match between Kasumi Ishikawa and Sun Yingsha (the sixth seeded Japanese player versus the unseeded Chinese player). In that Semifinal, Sun dominated early and held on to win (Sun over Ishikawa 4-0: 3, 7, 10, 10).
In the other half of the draw, Japan’s Mima Ito topped China’s Li Jiayi to reach the Semifinal. Ding Ning defeated Zhang Qiang 4-1 in the other Quarterfinal. Ding won the first and third games but found herself down to Ito 2-3. Ding closed out the match with two in a row. Ding over Ito 4-3 (3, -8, 4, -8, -9, 7, 8).
The final was between Ding Ning, a perennial Top 4 player and former World Champion and Sun Yingsha, an 18 year old with limited international experience who has recently jumped to No. 11 up from No. 18 a month ago. Despite the gap in experience, the match was dominated by Sun Yingsha. She won the first game 11-1 and never looked back. Sun Yingsha over Ding Ning 4-0 (1, 9, 9, 9).
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