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Chinese paddlers through, Harimoto stunned at ITTF Finals

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-11-20 10:54
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Fan Zhendong of China competes during the men's singles match against Jeoung Young-sik of South Korea at 2020 ITTF Men's World Cup in Weihai, East China's Shandong Province, Nov 19, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

ZHENGZHOU - Seven Chinese paddlers met no surprise on opening day, while Japanese teenage sensation Tomokazu Harimoto was dumped out in the first round of the ITTF Finals on Thursday.

Men's singles defending champion Fan Zhendong overwhelmed Jeoung Young-sik of South Korea in straight sets, booking a clash with Brazil's Hugo Calderano.

Fan was later joined in the last eight by compatriots Ma Long and Xu Xin. After conquering Patrick Franziska of Germany in 32 minutes of play, Grand Slam winner Ma set up a quarterfinal with Mattias Falck of Sweden in what will be a repeat of last year's World Championships final.

Xu also finished his first round match in dominant fashion, beating Quadri Aruna of Nigeria 12-10, 11-8, 11-6, 11-5.

However, it was a bitter day for Harimoto, who let slip two match points before losing to Jang Woo-jin of South Korea following a seven-game thriller.

Leading 3-1 after four games and 10-8 in the fifth game, the 2018 winner Harimoto was unable to convert it into a victory and Jang pulled off an unbelievable comeback.

"We recently had an encounter at the World Cup, and I knew his style of play. I played well early in this match, but became nervous with match point opportunity in hand," admitted Harimoto.

Jang will contend for a semifinal berth with the winner between China's Lin Gaoyuan and Harimoto's compatriot Koki Niwa.

Despite facing pressure from Japan's Miyu Kato in women's singles first round, Chen Meng, who had won three Finals titles in a row, managed to escape with an 11-6, 13-11, 7-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-4 victory.

"It was an intense match, and I was not quite comfortable when getting into it. The win was a recognition, but I was a bit slow in avoiding some problem on the court," top-ranked Chen noted.

Sun Yingsha, Wang Manyu and Wang Yidi, other three Chinese players present in this year-end competition, all secured quarterfinal berths in straight games.

Apart from Kato, Kasumi Ishikawa and Hitomi Sato also bowed out, meaning that world No. 2 Mima Ito is the only Japanese player active in women's singles contention.

The ITTF Finals is scheduled to stage the remaining four round of 16 matches and quarterfinals on Friday. 

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