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LION Japan Open – Review Day One: former champions, beaten shock results abound

(by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor)

Three times the winner, more than any other player in the history of an ITTF World Tour tournament in Japan, Germany’s Timo Boll experienced a shock first round Men’s Singles exit on Friday 14th June at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Platinum Lion Japan Open in Tokyo.

Furthermore, he was not the only illustrious name to depart, in the Women’s Singles event, Singapore’s Feng Tianwei and the host nation’s Kasumi Ishikawa, both medallists at the recent Liebherr 2017 World Championships, suffered shock defeats.

Timo Boll, the no.6 seed, experienced an opening round defeat at the hands of China’s quicksilver, 22 year old Lin Gaoyuan (11-6, 11-7, 6-11, 11-5, 11-8), a player pressing for a place in next year’s World Team Championships in Halmstad, Sweden.

Defeat at the hands of an aspiring Chinese player, it was the same for both Kasumi Ishikawa and for Feng Tianwei.

Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.3 seed, was beaten in the opening round by 18 year old Wang Manyu (6-11, 11-8, 11-6, 14-12, 11-7); a confidence boosting success, in the second round the teenager continued her good form. She overcame Romania’s Elizabeta Samara, the 2015 European champion (11-7, 12-10, 11-7, 11-7), a player in form. In the opening round she had caused Singapore more heartache by beating Yu Mengyu, the no.16 seed (11-7, 11-8, 11-6, 11-5).

Meanwhile for Feng Tianwei, twice the champion, after an opening round win against Austria’s Sofia Polcanova (11-8, 12-10, 8-11, 11-2, 4-11, 11-5), she  suffered one round later at the hands of 16 year old Sun Yingsha (11-8, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7, 12-10).

Upsets but not for China’s Chen Meng nor Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, the respective second and fourth seeds; both accounted for Hong Kong adversaries in the opening round of the Women’s Singles event. Chen Meng beat Minnie Soo Wai Yam (11-7, 11-6, 12-10, 11-5), Cheng I-Ching overcame Lee Ho Ching (11-6, 11-6, 11-7, 11-4).

Chen Meng and Cheng I-Ching both appear in the lower half the draw; the second round will be completed on the following day of play.

Notable success for China, it was the same for the country’s star names in the Men’s Singles event. Ma Long, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin alongside Japan’s Jun Mizutani, the respective top four seeds, all ended the day unscathed.

In the top half of the draw, Ma Long beat Japan’s Maharu Yoshimura (18-16, 11-7, 11-2, 11-2) before accounting for Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit (11-4, 11-7, 11-6, 11-7) to book his quarter-final place. Likewise, Xu Xin overcame Sweden’s Mattias Karlsson (11-5, 11-6, 12-10, 11-4) and Japan’s Kenta Matsudaira, the no.10 seed (11-5, 11-9, 7-11, 11-4, 12-10) to reserve his last eight berth.

Two matches for Ma Long and Xu Xin; in the lower half of the draw, the half that features Fan Zhendong and Jun Mizutani, only the first round has been completed. Impressively Fan Zhendong accounted for the host nation’s Masaki Yoshida (12-10, 11-9, 11-6, 11-9); Jun Mizutani defeated Germany’s Bastian Steger (11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 11-5, 12-10).

Success for the leading Chinese players in the Men’s Singles event; it was the same in the Men’s Doubles where after the conclusion of the quarter-finals the names of the nations that will contest the final are known. Japan will oppose China.

At the semi-final stage, Masataka Morizono and Yuya Oshima, the top seeds, face Japanese colleagues, Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura, the no.6 seeds; Ma Long and Xu Xin, the no.2 seed, confront Asian champions and qualifiers in Tokyo, Fan Zhendong and Lin Gaoyuan.

Similarly in the Women’s Doubles event there is strong Chinese and Japanese interest. In the penultimate round Japan’s top seeded Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato meet Chinese qualifiers Chen Xingtong and Sun Yingsha; in the opposite half of the draw, Korea’s Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun, the no.2 seeds, meet Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu and Cheng I-Ching, the no.7 seeds.

The semi-finals and finals of both the Men’s Doubles and Women’s Doubles events will be played on Saturday 17th June.

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