(by Steve Hopkins)
The WTT Cup Finals has advanced to the Final 4 in Xinxiang, China. In the Cup Finals, the World’s Top 16 are invited, so every match-up is between the world’s best. The headline of Day 2 was Dimitrij Ovtcharov eliminating World No. 1 Fan Zhendong.
The Final Four will be Dimitrij Ovtcharov versus Tomokazu Harimoto and Wang Chuqin versus Ma Long. With Liang Junkun out, Fan Zhendong advanced to the Quarterfinal with a bye. Waiting for him, was Ovtcharov, who had played a tight match on the previous day with Chuang Chih-Yuan. Still, it was Fan that jumped ahead early with an each 11-4 win in the opening game. The next three games were all tight – with Ovtcharov winning two. Ovtcharov then gained an early advantage in the final game and held on for the win.
Harimoto has played brilliantly thus far, with 3-0 wins over both Franziska and Boll. It speaks well of Germany that they had 4 players qualify for this Top 16 event – tomorrow Harimoto will single-handedly try to remove three of those Germans in a row. Harimoto’s Quarterfinal opponent, Timo Boll, upset Lin Gaoyuan in the opening round. With Ovtcharov topping Fan, Harimoto could maneuver all the way to the Finals without playing one of the top Chinese players. From a ranking perspective, all three of these players should see a bounce – Harimoto had dropped a spot to No. 5 but could see enough points to retake No. 4, Ovtcharov had fallen behind Dang Qiu as the highest ranked German but this result should move him back into the Top 10 and back to being Germany’s top ranked player, and Timo Boll had dropped all the way to No. 15, and while one win won’t get him back to the Top 10 it should get him within striking distance of the three players ahead of him so it could be a big step for a late-year run.
The bottom half of the draw has seen Ma Long pushed – Darko Jorgic was within a point of a 2-0 lead in the opening round, and Lin Yun-Ju pushed him to 5 games in the Quarterfinal. On Saturday, Ma Long will face Wang Chuqin – which is a tough matchup for Ma Long. In fact, the last two times these two have faced off, it has been Chuqin that has won (Chuqin won at the WTT Champions in their Quarterfinal match-up, and Chuqin won in the Euro Star Contender over the Summer in their Semifinal match). Chuqin reached the Semifinals with a dominant 3-0 win over World No. 3 Truls Moregard. Chuqin is in the middle of an amazing run, having defeated World No. 1, 2, 5, 6, and 10 a week ago on his way to winning the WTT Champions. He just added a win over World No. 3 today and will get to play World No. 2 again tomorrow. If he wins again this weekend, he could jump in the rankings from World No. 11 all the way to the Top 5 (but rankings aside, at this point he’s Mr. October – the player no one wants to face).
Lots of quality table tennis through the weekend – we’ll have more updates soon.
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