(by Steve Hopkins)
Three of the four Semifinalists from the last Middle East Hub event have now made it through to the Quarterfinal of the WTT Middle East Hub Star Contender Event in Doha, Qatar. Top seeded Tomokazu Harimoto has topped his first two opponents 3-0, and will face Youngsik Jeoung in his Quarterfinal match on Thursday. If Harimoto wins, he is on a collision course for a rematch with Dimitrij Ovtcharov – a week ago, it was Ovtcharov that won the first ITTF event of 2021.
Ovtcharov is also cruising, having won both of his early matches 3-0. Ovtcharov will face Anton Kallberg who has won three matches so far, including a 3-1 win over Sangsu Lee and a 3-0 win over Jaehyun An. The other finalist last week was Lin Yun-Ju – who will face Germany’s Ruwen Filus in the third Quarterfinal match. The final Quarterfinal match-up is Darko Jorgic against Kristian Karlsson.
Last week, second-seeded Hugo Calderano was upset by his Ochsenhausen teammate Simon Gauzy. Gauzy then pressed forward to the Semifinals for a solid showing. This week, Calderano was again upset early (2-3 loss to Darko Jorgic) and Gauzy had a respectable showing in the Round of 16 before falling to Kristian Karlsson.
These events are all warm-ups for the Olympics, and its worth watching not just how individuals perform but also watching the nationality of those players as there is a team event at the Olympics as well. Early in the Main Draw, there were 5 Korean players, and 4 each from Japan and German. In the Round of 16, there were 2 Japanese players, 2 Korean players, 2 Swedish players, 2 German players and 2 Brazilian players. In the Quarterfinals, there will be two Asian players and two European players – and no two are from the same country.
A week ago on the women’s side, Japan dominated with three Japanese players reaching the Final 4, and an all-Japan Final. The top two finishers are still alive this week – both in the Quarterfinals. However, those two Japanese players (Ito and Hayata) are joined by three Korean players (Hayeong Kim, Yubin Shin, and Jihee Jeon), Tianwei Feng from Singapore, Elizabeta Samara from Romania, and Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz.
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