Top 6 Storylines Following Round of 32 At WTT Star Contender
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We take a look at the biggest storylines following the round of 32 and going into the round of 16 in the WTT Star Contender event at WTT Doha.
1) Shin Yubin Defeats Margaryta Pesotska To Set Up Korea-Japan Olympic Team Preview Against Miu Hirano
After upsetting Miyuu Kihara (WR 47) in the round of 64, the massively underrated 16-year old Shin Yubin (WR 94) upset Margaryta Pesotska (WR 32) 3-1 to set up a round of 16 clash against Miu Hirano (WR 11). Shin will be representing South Korea at the Tokyo Olympics after beating several higher ranked players the Korean Olympic Trials, and her match with Hirano provides a preview for a potential Korea-Japan semi-final match-up in the Olympic Team Event.
Although Hirano is significantly higher ranked, Shin has a decent chance at an upset. Hirano has struggled over the last couple years and has had a disappointing 2021 so far; she lost to Kihara at the All Japan National Championships and was again further outperformed by Kihara in WTT Contender. Japan is still the heavy favorite for the silver medal regardless of the result, but if Hirano loses to Shin, Japanese national team coaches may start to grow concerned over whether their third star can snap out of her funk.
2) No Korea-Japan Men’s Round of 16 Matches As WTT Star Contender Additions Fall
The men’s draw was originally set to feature two potential previews of a Korea-Japan team match-up in the round of 16, but no such preview will be happening. Instead, Korea’s Jeoung Youngsik (WR 13) will be playing Gustavo Tsuboi (WR 36), who slaughtered Japan’s Koki Niwa (WR 17) 3-0, and Japan’s Jun Mizutani (WR 18) will be playing Ruwen Filus (WR 42), who upset Korea’s Jang Woojin (WR 12) 3-1. Both Jang and Niwa did not play in WTT Contender, and their presence was supposed to bolster the star-power of WTT Star Contender.
Filus may have just sent German teammate Timo Boll a huge gift. Jang was originally expected to almost certainly pass Timo Boll on the rankings to secure a top eight seed at the Olympics, but after Jang’s first round exit, Boll will likely hold onto his world rank.
Not everything was rosy for Germany as Patrick Franziska (WR 16), another additional star to WTT Star Contender, fell to Sharath Achanta (WR 32) 11-9 in the fifth. Achanta will face Franziska’s national teammate Dimitrij Ovtcharov (WR 10) in the round of 16.
3) Bernadette Szocs, Britt Eerland, and Lily Zhang Fail to Capitalize on Friendlier Draw
After putting up a valiant fight against a difficult draw in last week’s WTT Contender, Bernadette Szocs (WR 25), Britt Eerland (WR 28), and Lily Zhang (WR 30) were dealt a much friendlier draw this week. However, none of them were able to capitalize on the opportunity as Szocs lost 3-1 to Bruna Takahashi (WR 49), Eerland blew a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 to Kim Hayeong (WR 123), and Zhang lost 3-2 to Satsuki Odo (WR 103).
Eerland and Szocs missed a chance to solidify their position as a top 16 seed at the Tokyo Olympics, which also appears to be a cut-off for direct qualification for European players via world rank. Zhang also missed her chance to break into the round of 16, although she is already confirmed to represent the United States in Tokyo.
4) Kristian Karlsson Upsets Liam Pitchford Deuce In the Fifth As Pitchford’s Goes 0-2 in Doha
After losing to Andreas Levenko (WR 141) in the first round last week, Liam Pitchford (WR 15) again lost in his first match, this time to Kristian Karlsson (WR 29), who saved a match point in the fifth game to win deuce in the fifth. Pitchford has been nursing a hand injury suffered during practice two weeks ago, which severely hampered him in his loss to Levenko. Pitchford’s hand looked stronger this time as he was able to land some strong chiquitas that he struggled with last week, but he nevertheless lost deuce in the fifth to Karlsson to wrap up what has to be an extremely disappointing tournament for Pitchford.
Karlsson will play Gauzy in the round of 16, who reached the semi-finals in last week’s WTT Contender after upsetting Hugo Calderano, in what Edges and Nets would consider to be the most interesting men’s singles round of 16 match-up due to the combined starpower, even match-up, and the looming possibility of a Gauzy vs Calderano rematch.
5) Cheng I-Ching and Hina Hayata to Face Off In Difficult Round of 16 Match
After upsetting Kasumi Ishikawa (WR 9) and making a run to the finals, where she came quite close to beating Ito for the championship, in last week’s WTT Contender, Hina Hayata (WR 26) defeated 15-year old Kim Nayeong (ranked a ridiculously low 724) 3-1 to advance to the round of 16, where she will face an early test against second seed Cheng I-Ching (WR 8). Cheng will also get the chance to redeem herself after suffering a first-round exit last week to Szocs. A win from Hayata, who will not be playing in the Olympics, would also help her national teammate Kasumi Ishikawa in her campaign to take the Olympic fourth seed from Cheng.
6) An Jaehyun Avenges World Championship Semi-Final Loss With 3-0 Win Over Mattias Falck
We provided a full recap of the match here.
An Instagram summary with additional video highlights has been posted below: