2019 Asian Junior and Cadet Championships
Ulanbaator - Monday 2nd to Saturday 7th September
Shi Xunyao heads powerful Chinese challenge
Listed in top spot on the current under 18 girls’ world rankings, China’s Shi Xunyao heads the order of merit at the forthcoming 2019 Asian Junior and Cadet Championships; play commencing in the Mongolian capital city of Ulanbaator on Monday 2nd September.
Runner up in the junior girls’ singles event at 2018 World Junior Championships staged last December in the Australian city of Bendigo but the winner two years earlier in Cape Town, Shi Xunyao has proved herself time and again that she is the player to beat.
On the ITTF World Junior Circuit in 2016 on home soil in Taicang she won the cadet girls’ singles event, later in 2018 she secured the junior titles in the Czech Republic, Poland and Hong Kong, before earlier this year being the runner up in Thailand. In the final in Bangkok she was beaten by colleague 15 year old Kuai Man, the player who in Ulanbaator could well provide the greatest challenge to aspirations harboured by Shi Xunyao.
The no.9 seed in the junior girls’ singles event in Ulanbaator, the status belies the quality of Kuai Man. Notably last year Kuai Man won the cadet girls’ singles title at the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships, in addition to succeeding in the same age group on the ITTF World Junior Circuit in both China and Croatia. Furthermore, in Thailand this year, additional to being crowned junior girls’ singles champion, she also donned the cadet girls’ singles crown.
Equally, their colleagues on duty in Ulanbaator could well have a major influence on the medal outcome; Wu Yangchen is the no.3 seed in the junior girls’ singles event, Huang Yingqi is the no.17 seed, again a player who with more international exposure would be much higher up the batting order.
Impressively, Wu Yangchen emerged successful in the junior girls’ singles event in 2018 in Hungary, being the runner up earlier this year in Italy, losing to compatriot, Chen Yi, the name that in Ulanbaator heads the cadet girls’ singles order of merit. However, the result to note is at the 2018 ITTF Challenge Polish Open, Wu Yangchen reached the semi-final round of the under 21 women’s singles event.
Similarly in 2018, Huang Yingqi advanced to the same round at the ITTF World Tour German Open having in 2017 been the cadet girls’ singles runner up at the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships.
On the seeding, Wu Yangchen is sandwiched in between the Chinese Taipei duo of Tsai Yu-Chin and Yu Hsiu-Ting. Both are worthy competitors. Earlier this year on the ITTF World Junior Circuit, Tsai Yu-Chin, the no.2 seed in Ulanbaator, was a semi-finalist in Spain, the runner up in Belgium, whilst at the ITTF Challenge Slovenia Open she progressed to the penultimate round of the under 21 women’s singles competition.
Likewise, Yu Hsiu-Ting has enjoyed success this year, she emerged the winner on the ITTF World Junior Circuit in Australia; Tsai Yu-Chin and Yu Hsiu-Ting are challengers for honours but the greater challenge amongst the junior girls comes from lower down the order, from Japan.
Only just 14 years old, eight days after celebrating her birthday earlier this month, Haruna Ojio won the junior girls’ singles title at the Hang Sang Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open. She is the no.13 seed in the junior girls’ singles event in Ulanbaator, being two places behind the one year older Miyuu Kihara and exactly the one year older; they both share the same birthday, 3rd August.
Miyuu Kihara, alongside colleague Miyu Nagasaki, the no.22 seed in Ulanbaator, has focused her attentions this year on the ITTF Challenge Tour, thus an absence from junior events means a lower seeded position than her realistic level. Most significantly, Miyuu Kihara won the women’s singles title in Croatia whilst also partnering 17 year old Miyu Nagasaki to women’s doubles success; a feat the duo also achieved in Slovenia.
Additionally in Slovenia Miyu Nagasaki won the under 21 women’s singles title and of the Japanese contingent has the most experience, having competed in the two most recent World Junior Championships. In 2017 she was a member of the Japanese outfit that experienced a 3-1 defeat in the final against China; she won the one match.
She beat a certain Shi Xunyao!
Editor: Ian Marshall
Photo Credit: ITTF