They were the most expected teams on the eve of the ITTF Junior World Championships in Riva del Garda, and they effectively erased any doubt: China and Japan are the two top movements of Junior table tennis (and beyond), and tomorrow they will clash in two exciting finals for the boys and girls team World titles.
Among boys, Xue Fei’s China achieved a clean sweep of Romania (that had previously battled hard to see off the United States in quarter finals), without giving up a single set to the only European team left in contention. Yuto Kizukuri’s Japan certainly had a harder time through the day, needing the fifth match to beat a solid French team led by Bastien Rembert and Irvin Bertrand in quarter finals, and later used another 3-2 to defeat in a tight battle An Jaehyun’s South Korea.
A breathtaking final match saw Korean Hogyun Baek lead 2 set to 1, 9-7, before the comeback of Japanese Yuta Tanaka, who first tied the sets count and then took advantage of the positive flow to secure the decisive point.
Based on the impressions, China should have the edge ahead of tomorrow’s final over Japan, left without World’s #1 Harimoto just a few days before the start of the event. Romania and South Korea will occupy the third spot of the podium, conforted by the fans at the Baltera fair.
The same four teams entered the semifinals in the girls event, even with the same matchups – and similar outcomes. China eased through Romania, the only non-Asian team to reach the final four in both tournaments. Adina Diaconu and her teammates surrendered with a clear 3:0, after managing to hold up with overpowering Yingsha Sun, Wang Manyu and Shi Xunyao only in brief stints. Same result, after a more even contest, came for Japan that saw off a solid South Korea side, that eventually joined China in the decisive encounter. No surprises for Japan’s #1 Miyu Kato: “The three Chinese players are very, very strong– she said – but I will only focus on myself and playing my best game”. Romania and South Korea can celebrate a valuable bronze medal: against such opponents, it almost shines like gold.
Tomorrow, the programme will be enriched by the start of the mixed doubles tournament, but the highlights will come late in the afternoon with the girls’ and boys’ team finals, at 17.00 and 19.00 respectively. After that, Riva del Garda will be ready to crown the first Champions of the 2017 Under 18 Worlds.