Don't miss the drama of the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour, Hong Kong OpenPhoto: ITTF
Last week the spotlight was on Shenzhen, as MA Long made history at the 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum, China Open. Now all eyes are honed in on Hong Kong, where a host of international stars are locking horns in search of more silverware as the event advances towards its climax on Sunday 9 June.
The top two seeds, LIN Gaoyuan (CHN) and Tomokazu HARIMOTO (JPN), both made it through to the final three days, but each had to recover from a two-game deficit: LIN beat Ricardo WALTHER (GER) (8-11, 10-12, 11-2, 11-5, 11-6, 12-10) as Tomokazu HARIMOTO overcame Jon PERSSON (SWE) (7-11, 4-11, 11-8, 12-10, 14-12, 11-8).
Home favourite, WONG Chun Ting (HKG) kept alive the hopes of Hong Kong as the no.13 seed emerged victorious from his marathon seven-game match against Tomislav PUCAR (CRO) (11-9, 11-2, 6-11, 4-11, 8-11, 14-12, 16-14) to set up an intriguing round of 16 clash with Mattias FALCK (SWE) who knocked out last year's champion, Kazuhiro YOSHIMURA (JPN) in straight games (11-9, 11-5, 11-8, 11-7).
Simon GAUZY (FRA) caused arguably the biggest upset of the day as the world no.22, who has passed through the qualification rounds, accounted for no.6 seed, LEE Sangsu (KOR) in an epic encounter (11-5,6-11, 8-11, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8).
There would be yet another seven-game classic for Quadri ARUNA (NGR) who is flying the flag for Africa. The no.15 seed eventually saw off ZHENG Peifeng (CHN) (12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 11-5, 5-11, 10-12, 11-5) to set up a round of 16 meeting with HARIMOTO (Friday at 20:00 GMT+8, live on itTV).
Boasting the top two seeds in Hong Kong, Kasumi ISHIKAWA and Mima ITO, Japan's hopes of winning Women's Singles gold have been boosted by their dominant displays to date. ISHIKAWA brushed aside ZHANG Mo (CAN) (11-5, 11-5, 11-8, 12-10) as ITO impressed in her victory over YU Mengyu (SGP) (11-5, 11-4, 11-7, 11-7). There will be as many as five Japanese women competing in the round of 16, after Miu HIRANO, Hitomi SATO and Saki SHIBATA also passed their tests on Thursday. SATO and SHIBATA will meet for a place in the quarter-final less than two weeks after their epic seven-game showdown at the 2019 ITTF Challenge, Thailand Open. DOO Hoi Kem (HKG) remains the host nation's only hope of glory in the Women's Singles. The no.6 seed saw off Sarah DE NUTTE (LUX) in just four games (12-10, 11-6, 11-3, 11-6).
Europe's trio of seeded women's players are also aiming to continue their journey, as Bernadette SZOCS (ROU), Sofia POLCANOVA (AUT) and SHAN Xiaona (GER) get set to take on SUH Hyowon (KOR), DOO Hoi Kem and FENG Tianwei (SGP) respectively.
Sathiyan GNANASEKARAN and Sharath Kamal ACHANTA (IND) caused the biggest upset in the Men's Doubles, beating Ovidiu IONESCU (ROU) and Alvaro ROBLES (ESP), the no.4 seeds and runners-up at the recent Liebherr 2019 World Table Tennis Championships (12-10, 4-11, 11-9, 11-7). Suthasini SAWETTABUT and Orawan PARANANG (THA) made their mark in Women's Doubles, overcoming the no.3 seeds, Barbora BALAZOVA (SVK) and Hana MATELOVA (CZE) (11-6, 11-6, 8-11, 11-8).
In the Mixed Doubles, Tomokazu HARIMOTO and Hina HAYATA (JPN) were sent crashing out by top seeds WONG Chun Ting and DOO Hoi Kem (HKG) (12-10, 11-5, 7-11, 11-2), who have since progressed to tonight's semi-finals where they will face last week's China Open champions, LIN Yun-Ju and CHENG I-Ching (TPE).