LIEBHERR 2019 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Thursday 25th April
China’s Fan Zhendong versus Ma Long, Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto becoming the youngest ever; those predictions were very much in the mind when play commenced in Budapest on Thursday 25th April at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships.
Neither was to happen, Fan Zhendong lost to colleague Liang Jingkun (5-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7), Tomokazu Harimoto was beaten by Korea Republic’s An Jaehyun (11-7, 3-11, 11-8, 11-7, 8-11, 11-9).
Was the sense of occasion just too great? Remember Ma Long, who duly booked his quarter-final place by beating Brazil’s Hugo Calderano (8-11, 11-8, 11-1, 11-3, 11-8), he needed four attempts before he shone. In 2007 he lost in the early stages to Korea Republic’s Joo Saehyuk prior to losing to compatriot Wang Hao in three consecutive semi-finals before to winning in 2015 in Suzhou.
On his quest for a third consecutive title, Ma Long faces Lin Gaoyuan, Liang Jingkun opposes Japan’s Koki Niwa; in the opposite half of the draw An Jaehyun opposes teammate Jang Woojin, who received a fourth round walk-over against Germany’s indisposed Timo Boll, Sweden’s Mattias Falck confronts Frenchman Simon Gauzy.
Surprises in the men’s singles event, at the quarter-final stage of the women’s singles competition, matters went very much as anticipated with for the ninth time in the history of the World Championships, an all Chinese semi-final line-up being the order of the day.
In the round of the last eight, challenges to Chinese excellence fell by the wayside. Japan’s Miu Hirano lost to Ding Ning (11-8, 4-11, 11-2, 11-7, 11-9), colleague Miyu Kato suffered at the hands of Liu Shiwen (11-9, 8-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-5). Similarly in the opposite half of the draw, Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem suffered against Chen Meng (9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 8-11, 12-10, 11-4), in the all Chinese clash Wang Manyu ended the hopes of Sun Yingsha (11-9, 10-12, 21-19, 11-6, 9-11, 11-8).
China and Japan very much in evidence; they are due to meet in the women’s doubles final. In the penultimate round, Hina Hayata and Mima Ito meet Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato; Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling oppose Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu.
Similarly, China is guaranteed a place in the men’s doubles final, at the semi-final stage Ma Long and Wang Chuqin oppose Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan; in the opposite half of the draw, history is made. Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia and João Monteiro confront the combination formed by Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu and Spain’s Alvaro Robles. It is the first time in any event at a World Championships that players from Portugal and Spain have gained podium places.
Meanwhile, in the mixed doubles, the runners up in 2015 in Suzhou, the winners two years ago in Düsseldorf, Japan’s Maharu Yoshimura and Kasumi Ishikawa once again booked their place in the final. They beat Germany’s Patrick Franziska and Petrissa Solja (6-11, 11-8, 11-5, 8-11, 11-7, 11-8) and now meet Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen, the penultimate round winners against Fan Zhendong and Ding Ning (11-5, 11-8, 13-11, 16-14).
On Friday 26th April, the final of the mixed doubles event will be played, as will the semi-finals of the women’s singles and men’s doubles in addition to the men’s singles quarter-finals.