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Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Indian Open highlights 4

SEAMASTER 2017 ITTF WORLD TOUR INDIA OPEN

Saturday 18th February

Hong Kong hopes disappear in New Delhi night air

The hopes of Hong Kong disappeared in the New Delhi night air on the evening of Saturday 18th February in the Women’s Singles event at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour India Open; one defeat followed another.

First Doo Hoi Kem departed, some 90 minutes later Ng Wing Nam bid farewell.

Doo Hoi Kem, the top seed, was beaten by a player brim-full of confidence after last week being crowned champion at the DHS Lausanne Open in Switzerland.

Consistent top spin strokes, a step back from the table, proved once again the winning formula for Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm, the no.4 seed; she emerged successful in six games (11-8, 11-7, 5-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-3).

Success for Matilda Ekholm contrary expectations, arguably it was the same for Japan’s Sakura Mori, another player who possesses a great a deal of current self-belief. Earlier in the tournament, she won the Under 21 Women’s Singles title.

At the semi-final stage of the Women’s Singles event, she beat Ng Wing Nam in a full distance seven games duel (13-11, 12-10, 10-12, 9-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-6).

Against the odds, not according to seeding, Sakura Mori was the no.6 seed, Ng Wing Nam occupied the no.8 seeded position in the competition.

However, arguably it was a surprise. In the two prior meetings on the international scene, the decision had always finished in favour of Ng Wing Nam.

Furthermore, neither of the two meetings had required a deciding game. Both in 2013, both in ITTF World Tour Under 21 Women’s Singles contests where matches are best of five games; Ng Wang Nam had emerged successful in Korea and then later in the year in China.

It is the first time that Sakura Mori has reached an ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles final; for Matilda Ekholm it her second; in 2013 she was the runner up in Croatia, beaten by Korea’s Lee Dasom in the final.

 

SEAMASTER 2017 ITTF WORLD TOUR INDIA OPEN

Friday 17th February

Outstanding performance Tomokazu Harimoto ends Indian hopes

Crowned World Junior champion some ten weeks ago in Cape Town, South Africa when he captured the imagination of all present; Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto once again, this time in the city of New Delhi at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour India Open, stunned the crowd.

Not only did he amaze those present, who marvelled at the talents of the 13 year old; on the evening of Saturday 18th February, he ended the last remaining title hope of the host nation.

Full of energy, he beat India’s leading player Sharath Kamal Achanta, in six games (11-7, 5-11, 11-7, 11-13, 11-9, 11-9) to reserve his place in an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles final for the very first time in his career.

An upset, it was an upset in more ways than one; was there anything in favour of Tomokazu Harimoto?

Sharath Kamal Achanta, a true sportsman in the very best sense of the word, always courteous, always polite maintaining high integrity at all times, was the no.11 seed, Tomokazu Harimoto, was the no.14 seed.

Rating favoured India’s star man, furthermore, at 34 years of age, Sharath Kamal Achanta had vastly more experience and he was playing on home soil.

Surely the odds were stacked in favour of the Indian star but Tomokazu Harimoto had one massive advantage; he had nothing to lose, he could play without inhibition, if there is such a thing as pressure in sport, there was none on his shoulders.

Success for Tomokazu Harimoto but for his colleague, Koki Niwa, the no.3 seed, it was defeat. Earlier in the evening he had been beaten by Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the top seed, the German winning a hard fought seven games encounter (8-11, 11-2, 9-11, 12-10, 14-16, 11-2, 11-8).

Victory as status predicted and also as past result advised; the pair had met on four previous occasions in World ranking events, Dimitrij Ovtcharov had won all four but all four had been testing encounters.

In 2009, he emerged successful at the H.I.S. World Championships in Yokohama when to some extent Koki Niwa was very much in the shoes currently being trod by Tomokazu Harimoto, he was 14 years old at the time.

Later in the same year Dimitrij Ovtcharov won on the ITTF World Tour in Korea and then in 2011 in Qatar prior to succeeding at the Liebherr 2015 Men’s World Cup in Halmstad, Sweden.

Once again, this time in New Delhi, Dimitrij Ovtcharov won again; five in a row.

 

SEAMASTER 2017 ITTF WORLD TOUR INDIA OPEN

Friday 17th February

Rivalry renewed, New Delhi a good omen for Englishman?

Three players from Japan seeking semi-final places in the Men’s Singles event at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Indian Open in New Delhi on Saturday 18th February.

Koki Niwa, Yuya Oshima and Tomokazu Harimoto appear in the quarter-final draw but it is a contest between a player from the host nation and one from England that captures the imagination.

Sharath Kamal Achanta, the no.11 seed, confronts Paul Drinkhall, the no.6 seed; the evidence provided by the status in the draw, suggests that the Englishman starts as favourite but does home soil advantage and history advise otherwise?

In World ranking events, Sharath Kamal Achanta and Paul Drinkhall have met on five occasions. Paul Drinkhall won the first two when he succeeded on the ITTF World Tour in 2008 in Austria and two years later in the Men’s Team event at the Commonwealth Games. Now could that be a good omen for Paul Drinkhall? New Delhi was the home for the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

It is a result of which Sharath Kamal Achanta is well aware.

“We have been competitors for a long time now. He beat me in New Delhi at the Commonwealth Games but the last few times that we have played, I have won. It’s going to be an interesting match, we are good friends too”, Sharath Kamal Achanta

However, since the New Delhi encounter, the next three meetings have all been won by Sharath Kamal Achanta. In 2012 he beat Paul Drinkhall on the ITTF World Tour in Hungary and at the Liebherr World Team Championships in Germany; meanwhile at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, Sharath Kamal Achanta prevailed in their Men’s Singles quarter-final encounter.

An intriguing contest and intriguing contests face the Japanese trio with arguably Yuya Oshima, the no.5 seed, facing the toughest quarter-final challenge. He plays Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the top seed; likewise 13 year old Tomokazu Harimoto, the no.14 seed, faces an experienced European adversary. He confronts Austria’s 38 year old Robert Gardos.

According to seeding Yuya Oshima and Tomokazu Harimoto are not the favourites to progress but it is the converse situation for Koki Niwa; the no.3 seed, in the same half of the draw as Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Yuya Oshima, he confronts the one remaining qualifier, Hong Kong’s Jiang Tianyi.

Semi-finalists to be decided; in the Women’s Singles event two are already known. Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem, the top seed and Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm, the no.4 seed, both in the top half of the draw, have already reserved penultimate round places.

In the lower half, as in the top half, Hong Kong is very much in evidence in the search for a last four place. Ng Wing Nam, the no.8 seed, faces Hungary’s Georgina Pota, the no.3 seed; qualifier Mak Tze Wing confronts Japan’s Sakura Mori, the no.6 seed.