Croatian success continues but Hong Kong centre stage
The opening day of action in the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena in Doha had belonged to Tomislav Pucar; on the morning of the second day, Wednesday 21st February, the Croatian continued his winning ways but centre stage was reserved by Hong Kong.
Doo Hoi Kem and Minnie Soo Wai Yam alongside Lam Siu Hang all emerged successful in their respective Under 21 Women’s Singles and Under 21 Men’s Singles semi-final encounters.
Most impressively Doo Hoi Kem and Minnie Soo Wai Yam led the way; both ending the hopes of Japan, recording results that underline recent progress.
The top seed in the Under 21 Women’s Singles event, Doo Hoi Kem beat Saki Shibata, the no.4 seed, in three straight games (11-8, 11-6, 11-5); soon after Minnie Soo Wai Yam, the no.6 seed, ended the hopes of Kyoka Kato, the no.8 seed.
Likewise Minnie Soo Wai Yam won in straight games but the third game was a testing experience; she trailed 8-10 before eventually saving three game points to secure victory (11-8, 11-7, 13-11).
Notably Doo Hoi Kem and Saki Shibata had met twice previously in ITTF World Tour Under 21 Women’s Singles events in 2016, they met in Kuwait and in Hungary. On both occasions Doo Hoi Kem had won but always in five games. The win in Doha was far more comprehensive.
“Both times when I have played Saki Shibata it has been three-two; in those matches I played too safe, today I was more positive, I played faster”, Doo Hoi Kem
Meanwhile, for Minnie Soo Wai Yam it was a total reversal of fortunes; she had met Kyoka Kato in the Under 21 Women’s Singles event at the GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour China Open and had experienced defeat in straight games.
“In the third game she was much more aggressive; especially from the backhand, she uses short pimpled rubber and creates wide angles. I had to stay close and whenever possible I played with a lot of top spin from my forehand”, Minnie Soo Wai Yam
The young ladies impressive; for the young men, life was more testing.
Lam Siu Hang and Tomislav Pucar both needed the full five games to ensure victory.
According to status, Lam Siu Hang, the no.12 seed, accounted for Frenchman, Andréa Landrieu, the no.16 seed (11-5, 4-11, 13-11, 1-11, 11-7); the win coming after Tomislav Pucar had upset the order of merit. The no.8 seed, he overcame Korea’s Cho Seungmin, the no.3 seed (12-10, 11-8, 8-11, 8-11, 11-6).
“In the fifth game I changed my services, in the first four games I had used sidespin services; in the fifth game mostly I served with very little spin. Sometimes he returned the ball high and I could attack quickly. I focused on playing to his backhand, often he tried to move around to play a forehand; most certainly his services are very good, hard to read”, Lam Siu Hang
Crucially, in the deciding fifth game, Lam Siu Hang led 5-3 at the change of ends, a lead he never relinquished; conversely, Tomislav Pucar lost the first three points of the fifth game but then surrendered just three more as he sped to victory.
“He is fast, just like all Koreans; he tries to step around for his forehand top spin; in the open game I had little chance so it was important to be good with short play”, Tomislav Pucar
Both finals are scheduled for later in the day at 6.20pm.