(by Steve Hopkins, photo from ITTFworld)
The Semifinal rematch between Harimoto and Ovtcharov flipped the script from a week ago in the first Middle East Hub Event- this time with the players trading games to a 2-2 tie before Harimoto pulled ahead for the 4-2 win. Last week Ovtcharov won that match and went on to win the Final – tomorrow Harimoto will try to equal that feat in his Finals match.
The other two Semifinalists from a week ago fell early this week: with Gauzy falling to Kristian Karlsson in the Round of 16 and Lin Yun-Ju falling to Germany’s Filus in the Quarterfinals. Gauzy losing to Karlsson wasn’t a surprise – Gauzy is No. 20 and Gauzy is No. 29 and the two have faced each other many times with mixed results. The Yun-Ju loss to Filus is a bigger surprise as Taipei’s rising star and his quick over-the-table attacks seemed lost facing the World No. 42 long-pips chopper who mixes offense and defense and forces long points while refusing to battle toe-to-toe with big shots like most of the rest of the World’s elite. Filus’s 3-0 win over Lin Yun-Ju was the biggest upset of the tournament so far – but it is just one of many. Filus beat No. 12 Woojin, No. 18 Mizutani, No. 6 Yun-Ju, and No. 32 Jorgic on his path to the final. Tomorrow, Filus will face Harimoto – a player with a style very similar to Lin Yun-Ju, but perhaps a player with more experience (and less of a weakness?) playing against a chopper.
Despite the Ovtcharov loss, Germany is a big winner this week as they had two players in the Final 4 and with an eye towards the Olympic, they have Ovtcharov and Timo and Franzisca and now Filus who all seem to be playing well at the right time. This is also a win for Butterfly who again had three Butterfly players in the Semifinals and will watch two Butterfly players battle in the Finals tomorrow.
On the women’s side, Mima Ito cruised to her second Final in consecutive weeks with her 4-1 win over Jihee Jeon. Ito will face Tianwei Feng who topped Samara 4-0.
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