30th ITTF-ATTU ASIAN CUP 2017 Preview
2017 ITTF-ATTU ASIAN CUP
Friday 15th – Sunday 17th September
New name to be crowned, Fan Zhendong seeking one step higher
A new name will be added to the roll of honour; that fact is assured in the Men’s event at the forthcoming 2017 ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup which starts in the Indian city of Ahmedabad on Friday 15th September and concludes on Sunday 17th September.
No male player whose name appears on this year’s entry list has ever secured the prestigious title; the nearest is China’s Fan Zhendong, the top seed and the young man who starts his quest to retain the Liebherr Men’s World Cup title won last October in the German city of Saarbrücken.
Players finishing in the top three places in Ahmedabad are guaranteed an invitation to the Liebherr 2017 Men’s World Cup to be held Liège, Belgium later this year in October; there may be more with world ranking being a factor prevalent in deciding the final list.
Notably Fan Zhendong was the runner up in both 2014 in Wuhan and in 2015 in Jaipur; on both occasions he was beaten on the final by colleagues, in the former by Ma Long, in the later when facing Xu Xin.
Twice the runner up; the best for other major contenders for honours is the bronze medal. In Ahmedabad next in line to Fan Zhendong in the order of merit is Japan’s Jun Mizutani. He is followed Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting, Koki Niwa also from Japan and Korea’s Lee Sangsu; Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan completes the top six names.
Koki Niwa and Lee Sangsu have never secured a podium finish at the Asian Cup but Jun Mizutani has achieved the feat three times, Wong Chun Ting and Chuang Chih-Yuan once each.
Jun Mizutani was a bronze medallist in 2007 in Hanoi, 2014 in Wuhan and two years ago in Jaipur; meanwhile, Chuang Chih-Yuan assumed the third step of the podium in 2013 in Hong Kong, before last year in Dubai it was the end result for Wong Chun Ting.
All are capable of causing surprises but are the next two in the pecking order, the names that complete the top eight, the most likely?
China’s Lin Gaoyuan and Korea’s Jeong Sangeun complete the top eight; earlier this year at the Seamaster 2017 Asian Championships in Wuxi, Jeong Sangeun beat Ma Long; later at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf, only a coat of paint saved Xu Xin from a quarter-final defeat.
They say fortunes balances out; in Ahmedabad, could lady luck smile on Lin Gaoyuan?
Liu Shiwen defends Asian crown
The most successful female player in the history of the Asian Cup, a tournament which was first staged in Wuxi in 1983, China’s Liu Shiwen defends her title at the forthcoming 2017 ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup.
A three day tournament play commences in the Indian city of Ahmedabad on Friday 15th September.
Notably, in addition to winning last year in Dubai, Liu Shiwen also emerged successful in 2010 in Guangzhou as well as in consecutive years, once again in Guangzhou in 2012 and in 2013 when the tournament was staged in Hong Kong.
No other player has ever won the title on more than two occasions and the only other player to have claimed the crown in consecutive years is Guo Yue, also from China; she won in Sapporo in 2008 and retained the title one year later in Hangzhou.
Four times the winner of the Asian Cup, in addition Liu Shiwen has won the Women’s World Cup on the same number of occasions; the only player who can match that feat is her now retired compatriot, Zhang Yining.
Now in 2017, Liu Shiwen has major opportunity, to surpass the record of Zhang Yining; the top three players in Ahmedabad, qualify directly for Uncle Pop 2017 ITTF Women's World Cup to be staged in Markham, Toronto later this year in October. No doubt when the final lists are announced, according to world ranking, further places will be available.
Success after success for Liu Shiwen but she does not harbour the happiest memories of India; two years ago when the event was staged in Jaipur, she was beaten in the final by Singapore’s Feng Tianwei. The silver medal was her lot, with colleague Zhu Yuling having to settle for bronze; in the group phase she had also experienced defeat at the hands of the Singaporean.
All three appear on the Ahmedabad entry list, Zhu Yuling and Liu Shiwen are the respective top two seeds; Feng Tianwei is the no.4 seed with Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa being next in line.
However, it is the player who occupies the no.3 seeded spot on whom many eyes will focus, Miu Hirano; the sensational winner of the Seamaster 2016 ITTF Women’s World Cup and earlier this year victorious at the Seamaster 2017 Asian Championships in Wuxi when against all expectations, the Japanese teenager accounted for the Chinese trio of Deng Yaping, Zhu Yuling and Chen Meng to seal the title.
The incredible performance extolled by Miu Hirano overshadowed the fact that earlier in the Women’s Team event in Wuxi, she was beaten by Liu Shiwen. Additionally, Liu Shiwen prevailed when they met at the Suzuki 2015 Asian Championships and most pertinently just over one year ago at the 2016 Nakheel Asian Cup in Dubai.
In Wuxi, Miu Hirano became only the third player representing Japan since the Asian Championships came under the authority of the Asian Table Tennis Union, to win the Women’s Singles title, the others being Tomie Edano in 1974 and Chire Koyama (the former He Zhili when in the colours of China) in 1996.
If she can repeat the feat at the 2017 ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup, she will become the first; no Japanese player has ever secured the Women’s title.
Leading names, no time to ponder, into immediate action
There is no time to sit and ponder; for the leading names in both Men’s and Women’s events at the 2017 ATTU-ITTF Asian Cup, it is straight into action on the morning of Friday 15th September in the Indian city of Ahmedabad.
It is not a situation of waiting to see which adversary awaits after two days of qualification matches have been completed, as on the ITTF World Tour or at a World Championships; it is in at the deep end.
Furthermore, could it be a bonus for the star names? They say the first match is the hardest; arguably it is even harder when facing an adversary who has completed two or three qualification matches and is warmed to the task, hungry to cause an upset.
In Ahmedabad, all start on the same footing; all play in the group stage; four players in each group.
Immediately into the arena at 10.00am is China’s Zhu Yuling, the top seed, she faces Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem whilst in the same group, Japan’s Miu Hirano on whom many eyes are focused, confronts Singapore’s Yu Mengyu.
At the same time, China’s Liu Shiwen, the no.2 seed, opposes Korea’s Yang Haeun; whilst in the corresponding contest, it is Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching against Hong Kong’s Lee Ho Ching.
One series of Women’s matches completed, next into the spotlight arrives Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.3 seed, she faces Korea’s Suh Hyowon; in the same group the opening series of exchanges witnesses Singapore’s Feng Tianwei in opposition to Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu.
The first series of Women’s matches over, attention turns to their male counterparts. Scheduled for 11.00am China’s Fan Zhendong, the top seed, meets Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-An; in the same group Japan’s Koki Niwa confronts Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit.
Similarly Wong Chun Ting, also from Hong Kong and the no.2 seed, plays Korea’s Jeong Sangeun; Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan draes swords with Iran’s Noshad Alamiyan.
Two groups in the Men’s event completed; one more follows. Japan’s Jun Mizutani plays China’s Lin Gaoyuan, Korea’s Lee Sangsu faces the host nation’s hero, Sharath Kamal Achanta.
In each event, there is a fourth group which comprises representatives from south east Asia, east Asia, mid Asia and west Asia. Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut, India’s Manika Batra, Qatar’s Aia Mohamed and Iran’s Neda Shahsavari form the group in the Women’s event; in the Men’s event, it is India’s Harmeet Desai, Thailand’s Padasak Tanviriyavechakul, Iran’s Nima Alamian and Saudi Arabia’s Abdulaziz Al-Abbad.
Players finishing in the top two places in each of the first three groups in both the Men’s and Women’s events, advance to the quarter-finals; players finishing in third places in each of the first three groups plus the winner of the fourth group play a preliminary round. The winners progress to the quarter-finals.
The matches in the group stage will be played to a conclusion on the opening day, the preliminary round matches will commence the second day of play.
All matches in the group qualification phase and preliminary round will be best of five games.