A second round men’s singles defeat at the WTT Contender tournament in Doha on Thursday 4th April, followed by exactly the same at the immediately ensuing WTT Star Contender event five days later; it was not the best of reading for Korea Republic’s Lee Sangsu.
The player, who later this year will celebrate his 31st birthday, was respectively beaten by Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto and Sweden’s Anton Källberg.
However, despite not reaching the later rounds of the men’s singles event, did Lee Sangsu not depart the Gulf State with an air of satisfaction for both himself and for the Korea Republic?
Nobody departed with more titles; at the Contender tournament he partnered Cho Daeseong to men’s doubles success, then joining forces with Jeoung Youngsik, repeated the success at the Star Contender event.
Now, how crucial could that be in the forthcoming men’s team event at the Tokyo Olympic Games?
Doubles has taken an added meaning. It is now the first match on the schedule, not the third as in prior times. In previous years, winning the doubles has time and again secured the result; in Tokyo it may dictate the result.
Secure the doubles and for the player who follows with the first singles, your team is one-nil ahead, life is much more attractive, a pressure valve has been released.
Moreover, the men’s doubles efforts of Lee Sangsu at the WTT Middle East Hub tournaments were no surprise. Overall commencing in Poland in 2013, on the ITTF World Tour, he[IM1] appeared in 17 men’s doubles finals, he won on nine occasions.
Furthermore, in 2016 he partnered Jeoung Youngsik to gold at the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, also staged in Doha.
ITTF World Tour - Men’s Doubles Titles
ITTF World Tour Grand Finals - Men’s Doubles Titles
ITTF World Tour - Men’s Doubles Runner Up
One expects Lee Sangsu, Jeoung Youngsik and Jang Woojin to be the selection for the men’s team event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games; all are right handers, there is no scope for the favoured left and right handed combination.
However, is that important? The modern day so-called “banana” return of service necessitates a backhand and Jeoung Youngsik is so strong from the backhand, it’s like partnering a left hander!
The doubles crucial but there is another string to the Lee Sangsu bow; he won only two ITTF World Tour men’s singles titles – 2010 in Slovenia, 2011 in Poland – both are now a decade ago but he has proved he can rise to the occasion.
Remember the ITTF World Tour Korea Open in 2012; on home soil in Incheon in round three he beat a certain Ma Long, five years later at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf, in the same round he ousted Zhang Jike.
Beating Olympic Games gold medallists, if you can do it once, you can do it again! The burning question, can you do it in Tokyo?
Editor: Ian Marshall