(by Steve Hopkins/Photo by ITTF)
T2 Diamond 2019 opened its second season last week in Malaysia with the July 18-21 event in Iskandar. The T2 Diamond rules provide for a shorter version of the sport. The match is given 24 minutes to conclude and if the match is undecided at that point, then special rules are applied. Any game that begins after the 24th minute is shortened to 5 points. Also, there is no deuce in any game – so a final score of 11-10 is possible prior to the 24th minute, and after the 24th minute a final score could be 5-4. This alteration of the rules does little to change the matches early – but it does create some very high-pressure situations with a premium on every point in the final few games. Invitations were provided to 16 men and 16 women. World Rankings are affected by T2 Diamond results, despite the unique format. The Top 8 finishers will receive World Ranking points and all participants receive ranking bonus points.
In the top half of the draw for Men’s Singles, three of the first four matches played were upsets. Ma Long was the only seeded player to advance (by defeating Simon Gauzy 4-1). In the other three matches, Wong Chun Ting overcame Harimoto, Patrick Franziska defeated Liang Jingkun, and Lin Yun-Ju defeated Jun Mizutani. This meant that the four players to advance were Ma Long (World No. 5) and three upset winners: Lin Yun-Ju (World No. 16), Patrick Franziska (World No. 17), and Wong Chun Ting (Word No. 18). The Quarterfinals continued the trend in the top half of the draw, with Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju eliminating Ma Long 4-2 and Wong Chun Ting with the minor upset over Patrick Franziska. This means that of the first six matches played in the top half of the draw, five had been upsets. Lin Yun-Ja dominated the Semifinal 4-0 over Wong Chun Ting to move into the Final.
In contrast, the bottom half of the draw was pretty much as expected, with the top three players in the world all advancing (Xu Xin, Lin Gaoyuan, and Fan Zhendong – World Rankings 1, 2, and 3 respectively) along with Sweden’s Mattias Falck (World No. 9). Xu Xin defeated Falck with a 4-1 win in one Quarterfinal. Fan Zhendong then pulled off the minor upset of Ling Gaoyuan that went so fast that the expedited scoring was not needed (4-0: 8, 6, 5, 8). Fan Zhendong then took out World No. 1 Xu Xin with a 4-0 win.
Despite the large difference in World Rankings, in the Final it was Lin Yun-Ju that dominated. Lin won the first game 11-7 and followed that up with an 11-4 win. The third game went to Fan (8-11), but the fourth game was again an 11-5 win by Lin. The T2 rules then kicked in, and the final expedited game was 5-0 in favor of Lin to seal the victory. Fan Zhendong registered some important World Ranking points by defeating World No. 1 and World No. 2 in the tournament. But it was Lin Yun-Ju with the most impressive performance defeating both Ma Long and Fan Zhendong in the same event, and logging one of the few major events of the year not won by a Chinese player.
The top four seeds in the Women’s Singles event all advanced to the Quarterfinals. Three of the four won their match and advanced to the Semifinals. The upset was Japan’s Miyu Kato who defeated World No. 2 Chen Meng 4-2. Ultimately it was Wang Manyu and Zhu Yuling that advanced to the Final. Zhu Yuling defeated Wang Manyu 4-1 to claim the title (11-9, 11-6, 7-11, 11-7, 5-2).
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