(by Steve Hopkins)
The World Table Tennis series is active again with a WTT Star Contender event in Doha this week. The top two seeds in Men’s Singles were Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Hugo Calderano – and other seeded players included USA’s Kanak Jha, Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, Darko Jorgic, Woojin Jang, Sangsu Lee, Kristian Karlsson, Liam Pitchford, and Simon Gauzy.
Basically, its an allstar cast of players from the Top 100 in the World – but no players from China (as they just finished the Chinese National Championships), and the top Japanese players are also absent.
The event began with a series of upsets. Ovtcharov fell 3-1 in the Round of 32 – a 3-1 loss to 23 year old Korean Seungmin Cho. Two of the Ovtcharov/Cho games were marathons and Cho won both (15-13, and 16-14) and that was the difference. Cho lost in the next round to Andrej Gacina 3-0. Gacina, a 35 year old savvy Croatian veteran, also upset Sathiyan Gnanasekaran a round earlier.
Kanak Jha had a solid 3-0 win over Germany’s Ricardo Walther but fell to Darko Jorgic 1-3 in the Round of 16. Jorgic has had a number of great performances this year already both in the German League and in tour events, and his No.25 ranking made him the favorite against Kanak. Jorgic went on to top Gacina 3-0 to make the Semifinal (which will be played Saturday afternoon).
Sangsu Lee of Korea will play Jorgic in the Semis tomorrow. Lee emerged as the second player from the top draw with three pretty easy wins. The surprise from that section of the draw was Benedek Olah of Finland who ran off three upsets in a row before losing to Lee in the Quarters. Olah’s wins were over Benedikt Duda 3-2, Woojin Jang 3-0, and Siu Hang Lam 3-1.
Liam Pitchford and Wong Chun Ting faced off in the Quarters with Pitchford winning 3-0. Pitchford will face Hugo Calderano – Calderano beat Simon Gauzy 3-1 in their Quarterfinal match.
Not too many surprises in the Women’s Singles event as three of the top four seeds have advanced to the Semifinals. Those top players are Jihee Jeon and Hina Hayata (who will play each other), and Doo Hoi Kim of Singapore. The surprise was Margaryta Pesotska of Ukraine who entered as No. 35 and took advantage of a good draw and an upset (Hyowon Suh lost to India’s Akula) to advance. The women’s Semifinal is Saturday morning and the Final will be later in the day.
In Men’s Doubles, the British Team of Drinkhall and Pitchford will play the Korean Team of Cho/An in the final. Women’s Doubles Final will be Korea (Yang/Jeon) versus Japan (Nagasaki/Ando). The Mixed Doubles event will be between Korea (Jang/Jeon) and Japan (Shunsuke/Hina).
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