(by Steve Hopkins)
The ITTF’s China Bubble has moved to Zhengzhou for the third and final RESTART Event, the 2020 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals. Sixteen of the world’s best are competing – based upon accumulated point totals from previous tour events.
The participating Men are: Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, Ma Long, Harimoto, Lin Gaoyuan, Calderano, Lin Yun-Ju, Falck, Ovtcharov, Koki Niwa, Youngsik Jeoung, Pitchford, Franziska, Woojin Jang, Gauzy, and Quadri Aruna. The participating Women are: Chen Meng, Mima Ito, Sun Yingsha, Wang Manyu, Cheng I-Ching, Feng Tianwei, Ishikawa, Wang Yidi, Polcanova, Doo Hoi Kem, Jihee Jeon, Hitomi Sato, Adriana Diaz, Solja, Miyu Kato, and Hyowon Suh.
Six of the eight first round matches were played on Thursday. Fan Zhendong dominated Youngsik Jeoung 4-0 and the other top seeds followed the same pattern, Xu Xin over Quadri Aruna 4-0, Ma Long over Patrick Franziska 4-0, and Hugo Calderano over Liam Pitchford 4-0. There were two close Day 1 matches – Mattias Falck led early after winning the first two games but ultimately needed all seven games to secure the win against Simon Gauzy.
The headline of the first day was Korea’s Woojin Jang who upset Tomokazu Harimoto 4-3. Harimoto dominated the first two games, and split the next two – leading 3-1. Harimoto then led 10-8 in the fifth game but could not close out. A forehand miss by Harimoto, and then a big forehand winner by Jang left the score tied. Jang then had a lucky forehand recovery for a winner and in the final point Harimoto’s final backhand floated long. Harimoto never recovered – the final two games went to Jang in dominating fashion (11-2, and 11-5). See the video highlights of the match below.
On the women’s side, Cheng Meng was pushed by Miyu Kato but pulled out a 4-2 win. Mima Ito overcame Doo Hoi Kem 4-1. Petrissa Solja upset Feng Tianwei 4-2. Korea’s Hyowon upset Kasumi Ishikawa 4-1. Sun Yingsha, Wang Manyu, and Wang Yidi each coasted to 4-0 wins to make sure that one Chinese player is in each of the Quarterfinals. And Cheng I-Ching overcame Puerty Rico’s Adriana Diaz 4-1.
Two men’s first round matches are scheduled for early Friday along with the Women’s Quarterfinals.
ITTF TV is following the matches via livestream.
Check in at ButterflyOnline.com starting Thursday for updates on the progress of this event and other events.