Panaji (Goa), March 4 (IANS) The Republic of Korea, took the first title of the first-ever WTT Star Contender Goa when their mixed doubles pair of Jang Woojin and Jeon Jihee defeated Japan’s Shunsuke Togami and Miwa Harimoto 3-1 in the final here on Saturday.
The men’s and women’s singles final lineups were also drawn up on the day with powerhouses China taking three of the four spots available. It is all set for the final day on Sunday, which will see the men’s and women’s doubles finals, besides the two singles finals taking place at the Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium in Taleigao.
The mixed doubles final was the first WTT title for the Korean pair. Speaking on behalf of both, the experienced Jang Woojin said after the match, “We are second-time winners in mixed doubles. We are very happy. We are first-time winners in a WTT tournament. All the matches were difficult but we fought well. We played our game and we are very happy.”
China in three singles finals
Ping pong superpower China booked places in three of the four singles finals that will be played on Sunday. The first to get there was world No. 7, Liang Jingkun, a winner of two world championship singles medals, who made the men’s singles final, taking out crowd favourite Tomakazu Harimoto of Japan in four games (11-9,11-6,8-11,11-5). Liang had earlier in the morning session, defeated compatriot Lin Gaoyuan (wr #12) by the same 3-1 scoreline in the quarters.
Then Wang Yidi, the women’s singles top seed and world number four, defeated Tomokazu’s 14-year-old sister Miwa Harimoto in an excitement-filled five games. Wang looked to be cruising when she won the first 11-4 and also went ahead in the second, but the Japanese sensation staged a gallant comeback, taking the second at seven and then the third at nine.
Just when it looked like there would be no Chinese in the women’s singles final, Wang reverted back to percentages and remained unflappable till the end as the youngster’s unforced error count kept going up. The Chinese took the final two games at nine and eight respectively, to seal her final spot. She had earlier in the day downed Xiaoxin Yang (wr #11) of Monaco 3-0 (12-10,11-5,11-9) in the quarter-finals.
In the final, she meets one of the stories of the tournament, Cheng-I-Ching (wr #31) of Chinese Taipei, who beat Miu Hirano (wr #24) of Japan, in yet another terrific five-setter. Miu won a close first game 12-10 before Cheng staged a comeback to win the second and third at nine.
Miu paid her the compliment back in the fourth but Cheng dominated the fifth to take it 11-5. Cheng had in the morning session taken out Portuguese veteran Fu Yu in three games (11-5, 11-9, 11-6). She was quick to admit that her mental side of things had improved, saying after the exhausting semi-final, “I think this match was really difficult, winning this match shows my performance. My improvement has been good and so has my mental toughness.”
The final match of the day was a battle of teenagers as Chinese 17-year-old world No. 24, took on the exciting French 16-year-old Felix Lebrun (wr #70). The Chinese proved too strong on the day though, literally brushing aside Felix 3-0 (11-7,11-5,11-4) to set up an all-Chinese clash on Sunday.