It was an exciting and surprising penultimate day at the World Junior Table Tennis Championships in Riva del Garda, on Saturday December 2nd. The lucky audience at the Baltera Fair definitely enjoyed plenty of tightly-contested, technically excellent game.
In the Men’s singles tournament, China once again imposed its supremacy, bringing no less than three players to the semifinals, but it was the fourth man in the mix who caused the biggest upset of the day. Swede Truls Moregard, the #17 seeded on the tournament’s list, not only earned the honor of being the only European (and non-Asian) in the Singles semifinals, but did it at the expense of Chinese Xu Haidong, and in exciting fashion. Moregard had no mercy of a higher-ranked opponent, winning in straight games.
“It feels unreal – Truls Moregard said afterwards – but I felt confident in my game and my chances to compete against strong rivals. Reaching a medal was my goal, and I am happy to have achieved it.” Tomorrow, the Swede will find on his way China’s Niu Guankai, who needed the distance to come back from a 3:1 hole against South Korea’s Jaehyun An. The other semifinal will oppose two Chinese players, Wang Chuqin and Xue Fei, the latter earning the access to the round of four at the expense of the real hero of the day in Riva.
Indeed, Italy’s Matteo Mutti exceeded all expectations by reaching the quarterfinals in exciting fashion, playing his best table tennis in some time with the boost of the home fans behind. Number 31 in the tournament seeding, Mutti opened the game by edging Romania’s Cristian Pletea, the top European player in the ranking, by 4:3, and followed by seeing off Taipei’s Li Hsin-Yang with the same score. While being galvanized by the strong and unexpected run, Mutti could little against #1 seed Xue Fei.
“It has been a great day for me and an important result for Italy, something we actually did not expect – Mutti said, – we had underperformed in the team event so it was a good way to reward this incredible public in Riva. It has been very enjoyable to play at this level in our home Country.”
Also to be noted is the absence of Japan’s representative in the decisive act: after winning the boys’ title one year ago with Harimoto, this time no Japanese players were left after the round of 16.
China took the lion’s share also in the Girls’ singles, bringing three semifinalists as in the Boys’ event: #1 seed Sun Yingsha hardly showed any difficulty in edging any opponent on the day, giving up her sole set in the quarter finals encounter vs Japan’s Miyu Nagasaki (4:1). She will clash with fellow teammate Qian Tianyi, who defeated Japan’s Mitusho Kimura, who had previously eliminated #4 seed Adriana Diaz in the round of 16. In the lower part of the tree, Wang Minyu didn’t leave a single set on her way to the semifinals, overcoming by 4:0 surprising Chau Wing Sze (Hong Kong), who had beaten Europe’s best ranked player, Adina Diaconu of Romania. Japanese Miyu Kato took a 4:1 win over Sofia-Xuan Zhang, who had abruptly ended the run of defending champion Shi Xunyao in the round of 32.
China is sure to deliver at least another gold medal tomorrow, as the Girls Doubles final will be played between two Chinese duos: Sun Xunyao and Sun Yingsha vs Qian Tianyi and Wang Manyu. Both the top-seeded teams had to clash with Japan to reach the finals: the former beat Kato-Nagasaki by 4:2, the latter saw off Kihara-Kimura 4:0.
Also in the Boys Doubles, we will see a final clash against the top-seeded teams: China’s Wang Chuqin and Xue Fei defeated Japan’s Yukiya Uda and Yuta Tanaka 4:2, whilst South Korea An Jaehyun and Baek Hogyun beat another Japanese pair, Masaki Takami and Yuto Kizukuri, in a less-than-exciting day for Japan overall.
The mixed doubles’ finalists will come out of the encounters between Romania’s Cristian Pletea/Adina Diaconu and China’s Xue Fei/Wang Manyu, and South Korea’s An Jaehyun/Kim Jiho and China’s Wang Chuqin/Sun Yingsha.
The Mixed Doubles semifinals saw South Korea’s An Jaehyun/Kim Jiho and China’s Wang Chuqin/Sun Yingsha give life to one of the most exciting encounters of the whole week, won by South Korea at the full distance after several breathtaking plays. The other semifinal proposed a one-way encounter instead, with China’s Xue Fei/Wang Manyu earning the final in straight sets vs Romania’s Cristian Pletea/Adina Diaconu.
Tomorrow, Sunday December 3rd, Riva del Garda will enjoy the grand finale: singles’ semifinals will take place in the morning, along with the final act of the mixed doubles. In the afternoon, the finals of the singles and doubles will ignite the main hall. There’s still quite some entertainment in store.