Upset as 20-year-old Japanese sends Samsonov packing
World No.1 Long defeats Qatar’s Ping Doha
A major upset was recorded on the opening day of the men’s event of the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Doha asworld number eight Vladimir Samsonovof Belarus suffered a shocking 3-4 (5-11, 7-11,11-5, 11-6, 11-1,9-11,6-11) defeat in the hands of Japanese youngster Yuto Muramatsu in the round of 16.
Age difference counted for nothing at the massive hall of the Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah Arena in Al Sadd on Thursday as the 40-year-old former World No. 1 Samsonov, who has the honour of having the most ITTF ProTour title wins - a massive 26, succumb to the superior skills of Muramatsu, a player half his age.
The Japanese sensation had recorded a quick-fire 2-0 lead in just under 20 minutes of play before Samsonov, as if waking up from sleep, bounced back to secure a comeback 3-2 lead, howbeit temporarily.
Just when things appear to be on the high for the Belarusian, who has been ranked among the world’s top 10 for much of the last 20 years, Muramatsu came out of the blues to extinguish the fire in him, taking the next two games in rapid succession, to send one of the pre-tournament favourites packing out of the four-day $500,000 total prize money event.
“It was tough playing against a more experienced player like Samsonov but I am happy I won. I am happy with my form at the moment and I hope to continue to be on top of my game and play in the final,” Muramatsu, who is one of the five Japanese players in the men’s event said.
For Samsonov, it was a disappointing end to a season that carried so much promise but delivered so little in returns.
Samsonov who had participated in six consecutive Olympics between 1996 and 2016 was also on the verge of realizing a long-held dream of winning a Olympic medal in Rio before sensationally losing out to another Japanese Jun Mizutani in the bronze medal playoff.
“This is sport. You win some and you lose some. Though it is disappointing losing today but I hope to bounce back and win as much as I can next year. It’s been a year of fun and I plan to enjoy the rest of the year,” said Samsonov.
Meanwhile, Qatar’s representative Li Ping threw away a 2-1 lead against the world number one Ma Long in their encounter before he was sent packing 4-2 (4-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-3, 11-6, 11-8) by the World and Olympic champion.
Ping had raised the hope of the home fans for an unlikely upset after impressing in the first three sets with some superb serves and excellent strikes. At a point in the game, Long appeared not to have any answer to some of the serves of Ping as the Qatar player took four points from his serves in the third set to the delight of the crowd.
But things change from the fourth with Long firmly stamping his authority and taking control of the game to win in style.
In the women’s event, the 21-year-old Zhu Yuling of China, seeded third, set the standard on the opening morning of play by beating Japan’s Hitomi Sato, the no.16 seed, in four straight games (11-2, 11-6, 11-5, 11-3) while Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.2 seed, was extended the full seven games distance by Korea’s Suh Hyowon, the no.15 seed (8-11, 2-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-8, 6-11, 11-5).
Both defenders, Hitomi Sato and Suh Hyowon made every effort to make tactical changes; Zhu Yuling adapted quickly, Kasumi Ishikawa eventually adapted.
While Yuling had a dominant win, life was much more difficult for Ishikawa who in the first two games experienced problems returning service thus affording Hyowon the opportunity to attack with a forehand top spot.
Notably of the world’s current leading female backspin players, Suh Hyowon is the most attack minded.
Gradually, Ishikawa recovered; she won the third game before levelling the fourth after there had been an enforced break in play in the third game when Hyowon needed medical help after suffering a small cut above the little finger of her playing hand.
The next two games were shared with a somewhat tentative Ishikawa making errors in the sixth; a deep breath, a moment for thought, in the deciding seventh games, after losing the first point, she won the next five. Confidence grew, an upset was averted.
“I was nervous receiving her service, I made mistakes; in the third game when she took the injury break, it enabled to calm myself and focus”, Ishikawa.
In the other matches in the women’s event, Hong Kong’s Tie Yana, the number five seed, needed the full seven games to overcome the resistance of Yuka Ishigaki, the number nine seed. She eventually won 4-3 (9-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 11-4).
Success for the second seed was followed with success for the top seed; China’s Ding Ning, using the modern day so called “banana” return of service with forearm horizontal and racket circumnavigating the ball underlined the reasons why she is the reigning Olympic and World champion. She beat Hong Kong’s Lee Ho Ching, the no.12 seed, in four straight games (14-12, 11-7, 11-5, 11-6).
In the Men’s Doubles competition, there was one upset and almost a second. Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit and Tang Pang, the number six seeds, beat Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan and Huang Sheng-Sheng, the number four seeds (10-12, 11-5, 11-9, 11-7, 3-11, 7-11, 11-6); Korea’s Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu, the no.2 seeds, accounted for Japan’s Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura, the no.7 seeds, but they were stretched to the very limit (11-6, 4-11, 10-12, 16-14, 14-12, 9-11, 16-14).
Yuto Muramatsu beats Vladimir Samsonov 4-3 (5-11, 7-11,11-5, 11-6, 11-1,9-11,6-11)
Ma Long beats Li Ping 4-2 (4-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-3, 11-6, 11-8)
Wong Chun Ting beats Matsudaira Kenta 4-3 (6-11, 12-14, 11-8, 13-11, 11-9, 14-16, 11-8)
Jeoung Youngsik beats Mizutani Jun 4-3 ( 7-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-8, 11-13, 11-7, 11-9)
Tie Yana beats Ishigaki Yuka 4-3 (9-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 11-4)
Zhu Yuling beats Sato Hitomi 4-0 ( 11-3, 11-6, 11-5, 11-3)
Ishikawa Kasumi beats Suh Hyowon 4-3 (8-11, 2-11, 11-9, 11-8, 6-11, 11-5)