Monthly Archives: March 2021

Mima Ito Wins WTT Doha Event With 4-2 Finals Win Over Hina Hayata

Not the post you were looking for? A guide to all of Edges and Nets’ coverage of WTT Doha (also known as WTT Middle East Hub and formerly known as ITTF Qatar Open) can be found here.

For more coverage of the WTT Contender women’s singles finals, check out our preview and our post-game analysis.

Tied 2-2 in games, Mima Ito (WR 3) and Hina Hayata (WR 29) both reached into their bag of tricks as Ito eked out a gutsy 11-9 win in a pivotal game 5 en route to a 11-9, 11-8, 6-11, 9-11, 11-9, 11-6 finals victory over Hayata. With the win Ito, has captured the first ever World Table Tennis (i.e. rebranded ITTF) Title in the WTT Contender Event at WTT Doha. The qualification draw of WTT Star Contender, the second and more prestigious event at WTT Doha, is already underway and will be ongoing throughout the week.

The victory is slightly dimmed due to the withdrawal of Sun Yingsha and Liu Shiwen and general lack of star-power among Ito’s opponents (none of her opponents were in the top 20 although Hayata likely deserves to be in it). However, Ito was still able to make a small statement; while all the other top seeds in the event were getting upset left and right, Ito was able to stay steady take care of business. If everyone has similar showings in WTT Star Contender event, Ito can make the case for why she is arguably the ONLY serious threat to Chinese supremacy at the Tokyo Olympics.

Game 1

Ito opened the match very aggressively, which initially cost her as she missed several aggressive forehand smashes to go down 7-3. However, her shots suddenly started landing and went on a 8-2 run to take the game 11-9. Save for a net ball when down 7-4 (which itself was in the middle of an offensive rally), all of Ito’s last eight points were won off of aggressive wide openings or ambitious forehand smashes. Both the points she lost were a result of her missing her own forehand smash.

Game 2

Ito’s aggressive style carried into game 2, but thanks to a couple early service and return errors and a missed smash, Hayata was able to open up an early 5-3 lead that could have been larger if not for a couple of her own easier backhand errors.

Ito then won four points in a row to take a 7-5 lead. Two of these points followed the same strategy of allowing Hayata to open with her backhand against a short ball to the center and then smashing the ball back hard for the winner after anticipating its location.

Ito would use the same play again at 8-7 to maintain a 9-7 lead. Ito then surprised Hayata with a short push; Hayata rushed when stepping in and flicked the ball into the net, giving Ito three game points at 10-7. Ito missed a forehand smash to cut it to 10-8, but Hayata then missed a forehand flick on the serve return to lose the game 11-8.

Game 3

Similar to game 1, Ito continued to be aggressive and go for hard and wide forehand smashes, but missed several of them. Hayata also added some extra twists to her short game including a half-long push at 3-2 and a surprise forehand flick at 6-3 that, combined with Ito’s errors, were enough for Hayata to go up 9-3.

Ito was able to win two points on her own serve to cut it to 9-5. Hayata then served long to Ito’s elbow but missed the block when Ito stepped around to smash it to her backhand. On the very next point, Hayata trusted her long serve and anticipation again as she served a long serve again to Ito’s elbow, but this time a little further to the backhand, and when Ito stepped around and hit it to Hayata’s backhand, Hayata was ready for a wide block to Ito’s forehand for the winner.

Ito was able to catch Hayata with a long serve on the next point, but Hayata’s surprised return carried some weird spin and neither player seemed to know what was on the ball for a couple shots before Ito went for the smash and hit it out the table, giving game 3 to Hayata 11-6.

Game 4

Hayata showed some great anticipation and killed several of Ito’s openings as she built a 6-3 lead. However, Hayata then missed her own serve, lost a weird point after a net ball, and then lost a great rally to level it at 6-6. However, Hayata was unfazed as she continued to show great anticipation and smack down many of Ito’s openings and fool Ito with her long serves to cruise to an 10-7 lead.

However, a winning serve return from Ito and a missed serve return by Hayata cut the lead to 10-9. Ito calmly asked for her second “covid timeout” of a game (i.e. where a player effectively gets an extra mini-break by asking the umpire to “wipe down” the table), and what appeared to be a rattled Hayata then called a real timeout.

Hayata then opened with a chiquita to Ito’s wide backhand and then hit a hard wide backhand winner against the soft return to take the game 11-9.

Game 5

Neither player was able to take control the pace of the game like Ito in games 1 and 2 or Hayata in games 3 and 4. Ito had the slight edge in rallies, allowing her to build 8-6 lead. It was around at this point that both players appeared to bust out their bags of tricks.

Hayata won a point off a tricky half-long serve, and Ito took the next point with a short, high, and very strange chop block that Hayata hit into the net. Hayata then won the next point with a strawberry flick to cut the lead to 9-8. Each player then won a point off the third ball following great anticipation, resulting in a 10-9 lead for Ito with Hayata to serve. Ito then opted for a short push instead of the backhand flick that Hayata was expecting on the serve return, and Hayata missed the following push as Ito eked out a clutch 11-9 win in a pivotal game 5.

Game 6

Game 6 got off to a strange start. Hayata first won a beautiful rally before missing her own serve to level it at 1-1. Ito then caught a net ball and a pretty wide block to take a 3-1 lead. Hayata then proceeded to serve long on all four of her next four serves and lost all four points. However, Ito returned the favor by losing four straight of her own serves, including a missed serve.

Hayata was able to get narrow the lead one more point to 7-6 with a deep push to Ito’s backhand before dropping the next point to g o down 8-6. Hayta then missed a serve return and then lost the next point after Ito got a net ball, giving Ito quadruple match point at 10-6. Hayata’s shoulders slumped in frustration, and although it looked like she had gathered herself together for the next point, her serve was a bit high, and Ito killed the serve with a wide punch to Hayata’s forehand.

This sequence capped off a 5-0 streak for Ito in what was otherwise a close and unpredictable game. She thus took the match 4-2, and with it, the first ever WTT title (WTT Macau does not count because the rules were a complete gimmick).

Notes

On the men’s singles side, Dimitrij Ovtcharov captured the title with a 4-1 win over Lin Yun-Ju.

Ito missed three of her own serves and Hayata missed two. It’s unclear why whether the large number of missed serves was due to nervousness, rustiness, or a change in routine due to covid restrictions (e.g. no touching the table).

Either Ito sweats a lot or she really likes making use of the so-called covid timeout.

Edges and Net previously released a rudimentary statistical analysis of the Hayata vs Ito match-up. We will shortly follow up on how these trends held at WTT Doha in an upcoming post. Stay tuned!

The outfits this time were significantly better than whatever they were wearing at the All Japan National Championships in January, which can be seen in our Instagram post below. Between these National Championship outfits and Harimoto’s tendency to dress like a fruit with his monochromatic color schemes, Edges and Nets is not a huge fan of Team Japan’s fashion choice.

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Mima Ito vs Hina Hayata Finals Preview: A Statistical Approach

Not the post you were looking for? A guide to all of Edges and Nets’ coverage of WTT Doha (also known as WTT Middle East Hub and formerly known as ITTF Qatar Open) can be found here.

Mima Ito and Hina Hayata will be facing off in the finals of WTT Contender at WTT Doha shortly. To get ready for the finals match-up, Edges and Nets re-watched their seven game thriller at the All Japan National Championships this January.

We took a new approach of first qualitatively looking for trends and then performing a brief quantitative analysis to confirm our intuition based on manually labeled data. The game went a full seven games for a total of 129 points, giving us a decent sample size. Overall, Ito won 48% of the points despite winning 4-3; this is because she lost a couple games by a wide margin and won all her own games narrowly.

We present two conclusions below. The first conclusion we verify is pretty obvious from watching the tape, but the second insight may be non-obvious without actually looking at the numbers. Although the analysis is primitive, we hope that this post provides a glimpse of a future with more automatically labeled data, from which we may be able to quickly draw further insights from particular match-ups without having to watch too much film.

Longer Rallies Favor Mima Ito

One trend that jumps out when you watch the National Championships matches is that Hina Hayata commonly wins points by exploiting Ito’s height and putting Ito out of position within the first shot or two, and then finishing the point one shot later. However, once Ito is able to get in position in the rally, she is able to return pretty much anything Hayata throws at her.

Ito can handle longer rallies against Hayata very well. Source

To verify this idea, we manually labeled the shot-length and the winner of each rally. Shot length was measured by the number of shots Mima Ito attempted to make (e.g. if Ito misses her third-ball attack or wins the point on her third-ball attack, it is considered a 2-shot rally either way). The reason we count shot attempts and not made is that Ito makes an extra shot when she wins a point, thus biasing the results if we count made shots.

Due to limited sample size, we do not want to perform too fine grained analysis, we divide points into “short” points in which Ito attempted 3 or fewer shots (i.e. the total rally was at most five or six shots depending on who served) and “long” points in which Ito attempted 4 or more shots (i.e. the rallly was at least six or seven shots depending on who served).

87% of the points were considered short points, which makes sense since a lot of table tennis is executing your service and service returns well. In other words, on average there were two and a half long rallies each game. This can absolutely swing the match, as Ito won two games 11-9 and two games 11-8.

Ito only won 44% of the short points, but won a staggering 71% of long points, including all six rallies in which Ito attempted five or more shots. Obviously there is some noise due to small sample size and potential unknown source of bias in our approach, but the results are quite stark.

We thus highlight the importance it is for Hayata to be able to finish the point quickly, although that is obviously easier said than done.

How Should Hayata Manage Her Long Serves?

One of the key challenges in playing Mima Ito is managing long serves. Probably the worst serve one can make when playing Mima Ito is a short serve to her backhand, as that gives her free reign to do whatever combination of banana and strawberry flicks and short and deep pushes that she likes with her short pips. As a result, opponents typically avoid essentially completely avoiding this serve.

The two good serves to Ito are the short serve to the forehand, which prevents her from getting creative with the short pips without getting slightly out of position, and the long serve to the backhand, which forces her to give a predictable and softer return. However, the long serve carries risk, since when Ito anticipates it coming, she can step around for a hard forehand opening against the long serve. Serve too many times long to the backhand, and one may end up simply asking to be killed by her forehand.

It is not obvious just from watching the film which serve is more effective, and it likely varies by match-up and the opponent’s ability to execute each serve. However, we can draw some insight for Hayata by performing quantitative analysis on Hayata’s last match with Ito.

Ito won 52% of the points on her own serve and 44% of the points on serve return, which sounds about reasonable. Hayata served long on roughly one third of her serves, and we can assume that the remaining two-thirds were short and to Ito’s forehand.

The sample size is small as our splits are quite fine-grained, but the results are somewhat interesting. Hayata won 55% of the points in which she served short and to the forehand. On the other hand, she won 60% of the points in which she served long. At least in the previous match, it appears that serving long yielded better results for Hayata than serving short.

It may seem that Hayata should be serving long more often, but we have to consider that the more Hayata uses them then the more Ito will start stepping around, which would decrease the efficacy of the long serve to the backhand but increase the efficacy of the short serve to the forehand.

When looking at the splits between when Ito received the long serve with her forehand or her backhand, this tradeoff appears to emerge: Hayata won seven out of thirteen (54%) of the points that Ito took with her forehand but six out of the nine (67%) points that Ito returned with her backhand.

However, the sample size is tiny, so we cannot draw any strong statistical conclusions; all it would take is one edge ball from Ito to make the efficacy of a serve to the backhand to only be 55%. If the results do hold on larger data, it matches our intuition (and apparently Ito’s since she keeps stepping around) that Ito returns the long serve better with her forehand. If that is the case, left-handed opponents like Hayata may want to consider serving more often from the center of the table in order to land the wide serve to Ito’s backhand.

On the flip side, if after analyzing more data it appears that taking the serve with the forehand and backhand yield similar results, Ito may want to consider if she wants to step around less often, which would presumably allow her to focus more on the short forehand return. That would be a surprising and counter-intuitive result for many including Edges and Nets, but we have seen large-scale quantitative analysis upend common intuition in various other sports.

The data used in the analysis of this post was both primitive and small in scale, but we hope some of the conclusions that we drew offer a glimpse of what can happen in the future given enough well-labeled data. The length of rally, length of serve, and whether a player used forehand or backhand should actually all be pretty easily trackable based on modern AI techniques, and it will be exciting to see what the future holds for quantitative analysis in table tennis.

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Unless stated otherwise, all images and footage in this post can respectively be found on ITTF’s Flickr page and ITTF’s Youtube Channel.

Lin Yun-Ju Staves Off Quadri Aruna Comeback On Path To WTT Contender Finals

Not the post you were looking for? A guide to all of Edges and Nets’ coverage of WTT Doha (also known as WTT Middle East Hub and formerly known as ITTF Qatar Open) can be found here.

After blowing four match points while up 2-0, Lin regrouped and closed out game 4 to win his quarter-final match-up against Quadri Aruna 11-8,11-9, 15-17, 11-9 en route to the WTT Contender finals. Lin would go on to defeat Simon Gauzy 4-1 in the semi-finals to book a ticket to the finals against Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

Game 1

Lin jumped to a 6-0 lead thanks to a missed serve and weak service return game from Aruna. Aruna was able to land his first pair of points with a long fast serve to Lin’s forehand and then a step around kill against a chiquita from Lin. However, despite winning a couple more rallies, Aruna was unable to narrow the gap further as he made all sorts of short game errors up until 10-6. Lin went for a long fast serve and completely caught Aruna off guard but then missed the easy follow up loop. However, Lin was able to close out the game 11-8 after blocking several hard loops from Aruna.

Game 2

Aruna’s early-point struggles continued in game 2 as he missed a serve and a serve return that put him in a 3-0 hole. Lin then had his own series of missed openings and blocks as Aruna took a 4-3 lead. The game then progressed quite evenly as Lin generally tried to land his openings into Aruna’s elbow in order to take advantage of the next shot, while Aruna tried to force Lin to step to his forehand to take a chiquita against the half-long before hitting a hard and wide counter to the backhand of forehand. With Lin’s serve at 9-9, he was able to take the game with a wide chiquita winner to the forehand after a short push from Aruna followed by a soft wide opening to Aruna’s backhand against which an overly ambitious Aruna missed a hard step-around forehand counterloop, giving the game to Lin 11-9.

Game 3

Service and service return problems seemed to vanish in the third game as both players appeared to land solid pushes and openings to where they wanted them. Lin appeared to hold the slight edge in these counterlooping and third ball attack battles, taking a 10-8 lead. However, whether because Lin was nervous or Aruna changed his serve or by random chance, Lin suddenly missed a serve return at 10-8, and then gave two weak chiquitas at 10-9 and (and despite calling time-out just before the point) 11-10 that Aruna easily disposed of. 

Aruna missed a service return push of his own at 12-12 and 13-13 to give Lin his fourth and fifth match point, but both times Aruna saved it by killing Lin’s weak opening against Aruna’s long serve. A couple misses by Lin and hard winners by Aruna later, Aruna took the third game 17-15.

Game 4

Lin regrouped for game four as he started putting in much stronger openings, particularly his loops against Aruna’s half long serve and chiquitas against Aruna’s short serves to the forehand, than he did at the end of game 3. Aruna was able to build a 6-4 lead, but a couple hard chiquitas from Lin allowed him to go on a three point run, prompting Aruna to call time-out down 6-7. Lin won the next point off the time-out, but Aruna then caught a break with a net ball and then won a long rally on the next point to level it at 8-8.

Aruna served two half-long serves wide to Lin’s forehand, and Lin took both with a chiquita back to Aruna’s backhand and managed to split the points. Serving at 9-9, Lin landed a hard opening to Aruna’s elbow to take match point number 5, and then Aruna whiffed a backhand opening to give Lin the match 3-1.

Notes

Our tournament preview pegged Lin as an interesting match-up for Ovtcharov due to the familiarity between the two players and Lin’s recent dominance over Ovtcharov in international competition. If Lin can get in another comfortable win in the finals, he will certainly have a significant mental edge should the two meet in the Tokyo Olympics.

Lin’s quarter-final match against Aruna was the only match involving either Lin or Ovtcharov that was not broadcast on Table 1. Edges and Nets is working on finding a reliable method to cover Table 1 matches.

In the women’s singles event, Hina Hayata will play Mima Ito in the finals.

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Unless stated otherwise, all images and footage in this post can respectively be found on ITTF’s Flickr page and ITTF’s Youtube Channel.

Officiating Controversy Plagues Cho Daesong’s 3-2 Win Over Andreas Levenko

Not the post you were looking for? A guide to all of Edges and Nets’ coverage of WTT Doha (also known as WTT Middle East Hub and formerly known as ITTF Qatar Open) can be found here.

A brief summary of all Day 2 action and preview of Day 3 can be found here.

“Your eyes are so bad,” remarked Andreas Levenko (WR 144) to the umpire in reference to perceived lopsidedness over the umpire’s service call faults after losing 11-6, 13-11, 9-11, 4-11, 11-8 to Cho Daesong (WR 141) in the round of 16. It was an unfortunate conclusion as questionable sportsmanship from Levenko and officiating decisions from the umpire marred what should have been an exciting match between two young and up-and-coming players.

Game 1

The first game opened quite even as both players got a feel for each other up to 5-5. Then the game turned into one of serve and receive as Levenko missed two service returns to go down 7-5. Cho then landed a wide chiquita on the service return to go up 8-5. Levenko switched to a tomahawk serve that Cho popped up, and Levenko killed the high ball to narrow it to 8-6. Levenko then pushed a serve from Cho off the table and then against the serve gave a weak push that Cho killed to go up 10-6. Levenko missed an opening on the next point to lose the first game 11-6.

Game 2

Cho was first to serve in game 2 and missed two openings to go down 0-2 but leveled the score to 2-2 off of two long rallies. They then split the next two points as Levenko landed a hard chiquita on the first serve return and pushed the second serve into the net.Levenko then got called for a service fault for hiding the ball with his body (or hand?) to put Cho up 4-3.

For the next few points the players appared to evenly exchange points on standard openings and blocks up until Cho led 9-7 with serve. Up until this point, Levenko was an extremely good sport, noting that the umpire had erroneously awarded a point to him instead of Cho.

Levenko then popped up a service return to make it 10-7 and then complained to the umpire that Cho was blocking the serve with his hand. Levenko landed a solid half-long opening on the next serve return to save the first game point.

Whether due to tactics or out of concern of being called for a service fault, Levenko switched to a tomahawk serve for the rest of the game. Cho missed both his service returns at 10-8 to make it to deuce. However, Cho would still end up taking the second game 13-11 to take a 2-0 lead after Levenko popped up a service return at 10-10 and pushed a serve into the net at 12-11. After losing the game, Levenko made a frustrated motion about Cho blocking the serve with his hand.

Game 3

Levenko opened the third game with two long fast serves that he converted into a 3-0 lead, which he was able to extend into a 4-1 lead. However, Levenko missed a block when he tried again for a long fast serve, and after Levenko gave a weak chiquita and pushed serve return in to the net, the score was tied 4-4.

Levenko switched to a tomahawk serve, but Cho was able to win the point following a soft opening. Having lost four straight points, Levenko called timeout. However, immediately after the time-out, Levenko was faulted for blocking his pendulum serve, prompting him to yell at the umpire, “come on, what the f****? you take my serve but he serves like this,” making a hand blocking motion to describe Cho’s serve. The umpire obviously gave Levenko a yellow card, which he sarcastically encouraged with a thumbs up. Levenko milked the most out of the yellow card with one last rage throw of the ball onto the floor.

Video of Levenko’s outburst

Levenko was able to calm himself down and land a hard counter-loop in on the next point, sparking a 5-0 run in which he exclusively used his tomahawk serve. Levenko would use a tomahawk serve for the rest of the game as he cruised to a 11-9 victory.

Game 4

Levenko started game 4 more fired up with a hard counter-loop as he started cho’ing louder whenever he won. He continued to use the tomahawk serve. Levenko was able to win his first two service points, but then lost the next to, resulting in a 4-4 score.

Levenko continued to hit agressive and hard openings and counterloops while Cho missed a couple easier openings as Levenko closed out the game on a 7-0 run to win 11-4.

Game 5

Levenko’s fiery nature carried into game 5 as he won the first point with a hard counterloop (many fans have complained about the camera angle already, but it has to be noted yet again that we were unable to watch a great point because Levenko was off-camera).

Cho was able to stop the 8-0 losing streak with a great counterloop rally of his own. Cho was unable to win either of his own service points and then missed a serve return against Levenko’s tomahawk, prompting him to call time-out down 4-1.

Cho came out of the time-out winning three points in a row, including another nice counterloop rally, to tie it up at 4-4. After losing his fourth point in a row to do gown 5-4, Levenko tried switching things up by using his regular pendulum serve (the one that the umpire faulted twice), but it was to no avail as he lost his fifth straight point to go down 6-4.

Levenko then popped up a service return and then pushed the next serve return off the table to go down 8-4. After the second return, he again yelled at the umpire to complain about Cho blocking the serve with his hand.

Levenko was able to take some extra time off to slow down the game as both he and Cho agreed that the ball was broken. The stoppage in play ended up breaking Cho’s 7-0 streak as he missed a serve return and then a high ball (although the high ball was following a net shot) to narrow the lead to 8-6.

However, Levenko then popped up another serve and then pushed another serve into the net as he shook his head in visible frustration. Levenko was then able to win the next two points off his own serve, but then after landing a chiquita on the service return at 8-10, he lost the ensuing rally and the match 3-2.

Levenko let out a yell in frustration and afterwards told the umpire that, “your eyes are so bad.”

Edges and Nets generally takes a “let them play” approach and would not have called either of the serves as illegal, especially since from the umpire’s point of view (which happens to be the same as the new controversial camera angle), it is very difficult to make judgement calls on blocking vs non-blocking. In particular, Levenko’s second service fault (the one that caused the outburst) was particularly questionable as the umpire can pretty much only see his back. Perhaps ITTF/WTT should invest in service line judges, which are already present in North American amateur collegiate tournaments.

For what it’s worth. Edges and Nets conducted an informal poll on Instagram of whether Levenko’s serves were illegal, and the audience 53% of the audience said no. However, a couple other professional player at WTT Doha said that they believed that Levenko’s serves were illegal.

Despite the lopsided officiating, Levenko cannot completely blame outside forces as he lost seven straight points in game 5. Credit still has to be given to Cho as he still did play quite well throughout the match and as the controversy did seem to somewhat affect his mental state in the third and fourth game, but he was able to tune out the noise in game 5 and still perform.

Cho Daesong will play Tomokazu Harimoto in the quarterfinals.

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Unless stated otherwise, all images and footage in this post can respectively be found on ITTF’s Flickr page and ITTF’s Youtube Channel.

WTT Doha Day 2 Recap and Day 3 Preview

Not the post you were looking for? A guide to all of Edges and Nets’ coverage of WTT Doha (also known as WTT Middle East Hub and formerly known as ITTF Qatar Open) can be found here.

WTT Doha has wrapped up day two of action in the men’s and women’s singles event. We summarize the results and highlight matches to watch in Day 3.

Women’s Singles Day 2 Recap

It was a great day for Japan’s lower ranked women and a terrible day for Japan’s Olympic women’s team. as Hina Hayata upset third seed Japanese star Kasumi Ishikawa 3-2 and Miyuu Kihara upset Bernadette Szocs 3-1. Fourth seed Miu Hirano fell to Mengyu Yu deuce in the fifth.

Jeon Jihee took care of business against Maria Tailakova and is now the only top eight seed remaining on the bottom half of the draw.

Suh Hyowon’s struggles against domestic competition continues as Yang Haeun slaughtered her 3-0 to set up a quarterfinal match-up with Mima Ito.

Women’s Singles Day 3 Preview

Top seed Mima Ito and sixth seed Jeon Jihee are now the only remaining seeded players in the tournament. Their quarter-final match-ups are probably most intriguing and provide a twisted preview of a potential Korea vs Japan semi-final in the Olympic team event.

Jeon has a clear path to the finals starting with her quarterfinal against Japan’s Miyuu Kihara (who have outperformed the two lower ranked members of Japan’s Olympic team) on Day 3.

Mima Ito also has a clear path to the finals starting with her quarterfinal match against Korea’s Yang Haeun (who has also outperformed the two lower ranked member of Korea’s Olympics team).

Normally, we aren’t super interested in doubles, but Japan’s Olympic team will face off against Japan’s JV team, which has so far clearly outperformed the Olympic team, in a semi-final between Kasumi Ishikawa/Miu Hirano and Hina Hayata/Miyuu Kihara.

Men’s Singles Day 1 Recap

Calderano defeated An Jaehyun 3-1, including 5-0 runs to close out each of the final three games. A full recap is available here. He will play against former German Bundesliga teammate Simon Gauzy in the quarterfinals.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov saved several game points to win a critical third game against Emmanuel Lebesson and then cruised to a 3-1 victory in the fourth game. He will face Mattias Falck in the quarterfinals, who comfortably beat fellow Swede Kristian Karlsson 3-0 in the round of 16.

In a potential Olympic team semi-final preview, Tomokazu Harimoto dispatched of Lee Sangsu 3-1 and will then face lower ranked Korean Cho Daesong in the quarterfinals.

Lin Yun-Ju appears to be getting back into rhythm as he won comfortably against Sharath Achanta and in the quarterfinals will face off against Quadri Aruna, who eked out a 3-2 win over Joao Geraldo.

Andreas Levenko lost 3-2 to Cho Daesong in a match plagued by officiating controversy and Levenko’s poor sportsmanship. A full recap is can be found here.

Men’s Singles Day 2 Preview

The two more interesting quarter-final matchups are probably Gauzy vs Calderano, which is a potential Olympic quarter-final or round of 16 preview, and Ovtcharov vs Falck, which is also a potential Olympic round of 16 preview.

Where to watch

Matches on Table 2, 3, and 4 will be live streamed on ITTF/WTT’s Youtube Channel, although viewers in certain countries had problems watching them live on Day 1. Full match recordings are expected to be available the next day.

Table 1 will be broadcast on the official World Table Tennis website (subject to media rights restrictions). A free account registration is needed. There is live commentary, but sadly Adam Bobrow is not involved.

Since Table 1 matches are unavailable for viewing if you don’t watch it live, Edges and Nets will be live blogging and providing full recaps of certain Table 1 matches.

If you liked this article, please follow Edges and Nets on Facebook or Instagram to stay updated.

Unless stated otherwise, all images and footage in this post can respectively be found on ITTF’s Flickr page and ITTF’s Youtube Channel.

Hugo Calderano Defeats An Jaehyun 3-1 In Dominant Fashion

Not the post you were looking for? A guide to all of Edges and Nets’ coverage of WTT Doha (also known as WTT Middle East Hub and formerly known as ITTF Qatar Open) can be found here.

A brief summary of all Day 2 action and preview of Day 3 can be found here.

After dropping the first game 11-9, Hugo Calderano (WR 6) won the next three games in a row against An Jaehyun (WR 39) with dominant finishes in each game: a 5-0 run to close games 2 and 3 and a 6-0 run to close game 4.

The event was on WTT’s official website (subject to media restrictions) at 13:00 Greenwich time on March 4. So far, recordings of Table 1 matches have not been made available online.

Game 1

Calderano started the match with a strategy he would frequently rely on throughout the match: he served two half-long serves to An’s backhand and An gave two weak returns. However, Calderano missed an easy ball on the second point, making it 1-1. However, Calderano would go on to win all of the next five points in which he served.

However, An was able to keep things close by taking the initiative on his serve. After splitting his first two service points thanks to a pretty wide block from Calderano, An would also go on to win the next five points in which he served before rushing a forehand flick against a slightly high ball. Hence, after the first 16 points, the score was tied 8-8.

An was then able to steal two more points on Calderano’s serve with a hard chiquita wide to a forehand and a well-placed soft opening to Calderano’s elbow, giving him a 10-8 lead. Calderano was able to win a service return point back with a hard chiquita of his own to narrow the lead to 10-9. However, Calderano’s next chiquita was just a bit soft, and An was able to step around for a forehand down the line winner to take the first game 11-9.

Game 2

An jumped to a 5-3 lead to start game 2 thanks to some hard openings, a saved net ball, and a service warning against Calderano that made him miss the next serve. An cholaed anyway and clearly violated table tennis karma as Calderano won the next three points off some sloppy short play from An to take a 6-5 lead.

An reclaimed a 7-6 lead with a deep push to Calderano’s forehand and a wide block against Calderano’s chiquita. However, in a preview of the next two games, Calderano won five straight points to win the game 11-7 off a combination of an edge ball, two nice exchanges by Calderano, a missed high short flick by An, and a popped up serve return by An.

Game 3

Game 3 started out similar to Game 1: Calderano continued to attack An’s backhand with half-long serves to take his first five service points before a lucky net at 6-3. An split his first pair of serves due to some crips exchanges by Calderano, but won the next three of his own serves off hard step around forehands and an aggressive push to Calderano’s elbow. When all the dust settled, Calderano held a narrow lead of 6-5.

Calderano then hit a hard chiquita against An to take a 7-5 lead, and then An appeared to yield the initiative to Calderano as he dropped four more straight points, all off of missed blocks against Calderano’s loops. Altogether, Calderano again finished the game on a 5-0 run to take the game 11-5 and a commanding 2-1 lead.

Game 4

Calderano was able to continue taking the initiative to start game 4 and jumped to a 5-2 lead. He then missed a forehand loop, and it looked like that momentum was shifting to An’s side after he narrowed the lead to 5-4 with a beautiful counter-looping rally.

However, the opposite actually happened as Calderano won a beautiful rally of his own to take a 6-4 lead. A popped up service return and a missed forehand flick from An further extended the lead to 8-4. Calderano launched a flurry of attacks to win the next three points in a row as well, capping off a 6-0 run to take the fourth game 11-4 and the match 3-1.

Notes

  • Hugo Calderano was rubbing some kind of ointment on his arm in between games. We are unsure if it is due to injury.
  • Calderano will play his former German Bundesliga teammate Simon Gauzy in the quarterfinals

After the match, Calderano provided the following post-game comments:

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Unless stated otherwise, all images and footage in this post can respectively be found on ITTF’s Flickr page and ITTF’s Youtube Channel.

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Andreas Levenko UPSETS Injured Liam Pitchford 3-1

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A brief recap of all Day 1 action and Day 2 preview can be found here.

In the biggest upset of the men’s singles event so far, world ranked 144 Andreas Levenko upset sixth seed and world ranked 15 Liam Pitchford 11-4, 11-8, 5-11, 11-7 in the round of 32 in the WTT Contender event at WTT Doha.

Pitchford hurt his hand hitting a half-long ball last week in practice, and as a result he felt pain whenever he used his backhand. He hopes to recover by the start of WTT Star Contender next week. Nevertheless, it is still a great win by Andreas Levenko, who has had a sensational run so far in this tournament.

Game 1

This match started out extremely sloppy as both players missed their own opening. The first point in which something of note happened was when Pitchford pushed a little long to Levenko’s backhand, and Levenko stepped around for a kill to put himself up 7-2. Pitchford then called a “COVID timeout”, which is when a player asks the umpire to wipe the table, giving both players a short break. Both players continued to miss what looked like standard openings until Pitchford won a rally at 3-9. It was too little, too late as Levenko landed two nice points of his own to win 11-4.

Game 2

Levenko won the first three points off hard counterloops against weak openings from Pitchford before missing his own opening. The sloppy play from game 1 continue as the next six points was a series of missed openings and bad decisions that resulted in a 7-3 lead for Levenko. Pitchford won a quick rally to cut the lead to 7-4, but then after exchanging a few more errors the lead was back up to 9-5. Pitchford was able to land in two nice quick backhand rolls that cut the lead to 10-8, but he missed what looked like a standard backhand loop, giving the game to Levenko 11-8.

Game 3

After missing so many chiquitas in the first two games and getting killed on the ones that he did land, in both a tactical and likely injury-conerned move, Pitchford almost completely stopped using chiquitas and mainly pushed in the last two games.

Pitchford hence opened the game looking in better rhythm as he started winning several longer rallies and not giving Levenko any soft shots to the forehand or elbow to kill. However, he continued to make sloppy errors including two missed pushes, keeping the score tight up until 5-4. The next few points ended up with several quick mid-length rallies that saw Pitchford lead 7-5.

Levenko then tried a funky sidespin strawberry service return to Pitchford’s elbow, but Pitchford was able to win the point on the next shot anyway to go up 8-5. Levenko would continue to try out weirder stuff to close the game, including two tomahawk serves when down 9-5. Perhaps Levenko’s goal was to disrupt Pitchford’s rhythm, but if his goal was to win points, his plan failed as he missed the third ball on both his tomahawk serves to lose the game 11-5.

Game 4

Levenko himself also stopped trying out chiquitas and also started pushing short. Without the threat of Pitchford’s fast chiquita, Levenko was able to step around almost every point in the fourth game to land his strong forehand opening. After several sequences of varying success stepping around the corner for a forehand opening and then crossing over for Pitchford’s wide block to the forehand, Levenko found himself up 4-3.

Levenko then caught a net, but lost the point anyway. Then Pitchford caught a net ball, but lost the point anyway, bringing the score to 5-4. Pitchford leveled the score to 5-5 with a nice backhand roll, but lost the next two points off a weak short game, prompting him to call time out.

However, the timeout brought no change in momentum as both players continued to exchange points until 9-7. Levenko served a short shovel serve to Pitchford’s center and took advantage of the weak chiquita return from Pitchford to take a 10-7 lead for three match points. Levenko then served a half-long serve to Pitchford’s forehand and then took advantage again of Pitchford’s weak loop against the half-long. This gave the game to 11-7 and the match 3-1 to Levenko.

Levenko will be playing Cho Daesong in the round of 16, and both players have to be excited that they are playing someone outside the top 100. Cho is only 18, and he had a high profile win over An Jaehyun (WR 39) and pushed Jeoung Youngsik (WR 13) to seven games at the recent Korean Olympic Trials. This is a golden opportunity for both of them to advance to the quarterfinals and face the winner between Harimoto and Lee Sangsu.

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Unless stated otherwise, all images and footage in this post can respectively be found on ITTF’s Flickr page and ITTF’s Youtube Channel.

WTT Doha Day 1 Recap and Day 2 Preview

Not the post you were looking for? A guide to all of Edges and Nets’ coverage of WTT Doha (also known as WTT Middle East Hub and formerly known as ITTF Qatar Open) can be found here.

WTT Doha has wrapped up day one of action in the men’s and women’s singles event. We saw top seeds fall or come close to falling in both events.

Women’s Singles Day 1 Recap

In the women’s singles event, second seed Cheng I-Ching (WR 8) lost 3-1 to Bernadette Szocs (WR 26). Szocs just gave Kasumi Ishikawa a massive gift; since Cheng only gets four ranking points from this event, Kasumi Ishikawa will have an easier path to passing Cheng on the world rankings and taking the fourth seed at the Tokyo Olympics (after all the confusion over WTT’s draw process, the fourth seed may or may not matter greatly). However, Cheng’s current lead in the world ranking is still large enough that Ishikawa still needs to make two deep runs at WTT Doha.

Ishikawa (WR 9) herself almost suffered a first-round upset herself as she was pushed to five games by thirteenth seed Lily Zhang (WR 30). Co-patriot and top seed Mima Ito also received a first round scare, going five games to twelfth seed Britt Eerland (WR 28). Szocs, Zhang, and Eerland were three of the biggest victims of WTT’s sudden decision to only seed the top eight players, because they had to face a top-3 seed instead of a bottom 16 seed as under the previous rules. However, WTT ended up getting what it wanted in the form of three exciting round of 32 matches and one first-round major upset. Hopefully, the round of 16 remains just as exciting.

Elsewhere in the draw, Margaryta Pesotska (WR 32) upset eighth seed Adriana Diaz (WR 19), and sixth seed Feng Tianwei (WR 12) fell to Suthasini Sawettabut (WR 41). A total of three top eight seeds have thus bowed out in the first round of the women’s singles event.

Along with Cheng, the rest of Taiwan’s women’s team also bowed out early; Chen Szu-Yu (WR 25) lost to Suh Hyo-won (WR 21) 3-1, and Jeon Jihee (WR 15) took care of business against Cheng Hsien-Tzu (WR 57).

Women’s Singles Day 2 Preview

While the top seeds all faced tough competition on Day 1, the round of 16 match-ups will be slightly easier for them as they mostly face lower ranked players than in the round of 32. However, there are also plenty of interesting matches among the lower seeds.

Now that Szocs has upset Cheng I-Ching and eliminated the highest ranked player between her and the finals, she will face off against Miyuu Kahara (WR 49), who previously defeated Miu Hirano at the All Japan National championships this January.

Pesotska will continue her push to become a top 16 seed at the Tokyo Olympics (a top 16 seed earns European players auto-qualification into the Olympics) against lower ranked Shan Xiaona (WR 43).

Suh Hyowon (WR 21) will face off against co-patriot Yang Haeun (WR 81). Yang has upset 2021 Olympian and fellow Korean Choi Hyojoo in the qualification round, and she also beat Suh at the Korean Olympic Trials earlier this year. Yang will be looking to extend her good performance in Doha, while Suh gets the opportunity to redeem her abysmal performance at the Korean Olympic Trials, in which she finished near the bottom.

Men’s Singles Day 1 Recap

Liam Pitchford (WR 15) lost to Andreas Levenko (WR 144), who has now pulled off several consecutive upsets starting from the qualification draw. Pitchford suffered a minor hand injury last week that affected his performance in Day 1, but he hopes to be fully recovered by WTT Star Contender. Edges and Nets provided a full recap of the match here.

Players seeded 9-16 who had to play higher seeds did not fare as well as their female counterparts. Tomokazu Harimoto (WR 5) beat Chuang Chih-Yuan (WR 26) 3-0, Simon Gauzy (WR 20) beat Jonathan Groth (WR 30) 3-0, and Lee Sangsu (WR 22) defeated Robert Gardos (WR 24) 3-1.

Elsewhere in the draw, Lin Yun-Ju (WR 7) shared the struggles with the rest of team Taiwan (along with the women’s team and Chuang Chih-Yuan, Chen Chien-An also suffered an early exit in the qualification round) as he was pushed to five games in his first-round match against Benedikt Duda (WR 38). In a weird turn of events, Wang Yang had to default his match to Joao Geraldo due to violations of COVID restrictions.

Men’s Singles Day 2 Preview

Tomokazu Harimoto will play Lee Sangsu in a likely preview of the men’s team semi-final event at the Tokyo Olympics. Harimoto has had a difficult year so far, losing to lower ranked Japanese players both in the All Japan National Championships and the Japanese T-League. A loss to a lower ranked international rival may be an even bigger blow to his confidence.

Cho Daesong (WR 141) will face off against Levenko, and both players have to be excited that they are playing someone outside the top 100 in the round of 16. Cho is only 18, and he had a high profile win over An Jaehyun (WR 39) and pushed Jeoung Youngsik (WR 13) to seven games at the recent Korean Olympic Trials.

An Jaehyun himself also has a history of upsetting higher ranked players, and he looks to extend that history in his round of 16 match-up against Hugo Calderano.

Joao Geraldo (WR 93) gets his first match of the main draw against Quadri Aruna (WR 20). Given how all of Team Taiwan (including Lin) has struggled so far, Aruna has a great opportunity to make a run to at least the semi-finals. However, nothing is worse for a player’s performance than thinking too far ahead in the future.

Lin will also get the chance to get back into groove in his round of 16 match-up against Sharath Achanta (WR 32).

Where to watch

Matches on Table 2, 3, and 4 will be live streamed on ITTF/WTT’s Youtube Channel, although viewers in certain countries had problems watching them live on Day 1. Full match recordings are expected to be available the next day.

Table 1 will be broadcast on the official World Table Tennis website (subject to media rights restrictions). A free account registration is needed. There is live commentary, but sadly Adam Bobrow is not involved.

Since Table 1 matches are unavailable for viewing if you don’t watch it live, Edges and Nets will be live blogging and providing full recaps of certain Table 1 matches. For Day 2, we will be covering An Jaehyun vs Hugo Calderano at 13:00 Greenwich time. Check back our website for more. We were not able to do any live recaps of Day 1 due to issues viewing the live Youtube stream, but expect things to go better this time around.

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Unless stated otherwise, all images and footage in this post can respectively be found on ITTF’s Flickr page and ITTF’s Youtube Channel.

WTT Doha’s Main Draw Sparks Outrage

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This is a developing story and will be updated as ITTF /WTT presents more information.

WTT/ITTF has released the main draw for WTT Contender at WTT Doha, and by far the biggest thing that stands out is the unfairness of the draw. Certain round of 32 match-ups will feature two players who should be seeded in the top 16, while other match-ups will feature two unseeded players from the qualifying draw. WTT has so far released no explanation or press release to explain the sudden change in the drawing process.

Update: WTT has explained the draw system on Instagram. All seeds outside of the top eight were treated randomly. Seeds five through eight are still treated equally and will be randomly matched up with a top four seed in the quarterfinals. The goal is to “introduce new innovations” and make matches “unpredictable”. It appears that both players and fans were largely unaware of the rule change until today, when the draws were released and the explanation was posted. However, national governing bodies were apparently made aware of the change at the start of the tournament

Who is getting screwed over by the rule change?

In the women’s singles, in the round of 32, which in principle should feature top 16 seeds versus bottom 16 seeds, eleventh seed Bernadette Szocs will play second seed Cheng I-Ching, twelfth seed Britt Eerland will face top seed Mima Ito and thirteenth seed Lily Zhang will face third seed Kasumi Ishikawa. Needless to say, Britt Eerland is not happy.

If any of Ito, Cheng, or Ishikawa suffer an upset, she will almost have some words to say about the draw as well.

In the men’s singles, in the round of 32, ninth Lee Sangsu will be facing off against tenth seed Robert Gardos, thirteenth seed Chuang Chih-Yuan will have to play top seed Tomokazu Harimoto, fourteenth seed Jonathan Groth has to play seventh seed Simon Gauzy, thirteenth seed Kristian Karlsson will play fifteenth seed Darko Jorgic.

Looking Past the First Round

After the first round, things look to be a bit more reasonable. In the women’s singles, Kasumi Ishikawa has to be happy that she drew Cheng I-Ching in the semi-finals, giving her a chance to defeat Cheng in the semi-finals and take the fourth seed from her. In the men’s singles, Lin Yun-ju should also be satisfied that he drew Hugo Calderano in the semi-finals for similar reasons.

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Unless stated otherwise, all images and footage in this post can respectively be found on ITTF’s Flickr page and the ITTV channel or ITTF’s Youtube Channel.

Yang Haeun Upsets Melanie Diaz 3-0 to Advance To Final Qualificaton Round

Not the post you were looking for? A guide to all of Edges and Nets’ coverage of WTT Doha (also known as WTT Middle East Hub and formerly known as ITTF Qatar Open) can be found here.

Yang Haeun (WR 81) hit a down-the-line shot from her middle backhand wide to Melanie Diaz’s (WR 68) forehand to cap off a 26-shot (!!) rally, winning the point, set, and match, securing a 3-0 upset over. Yang advances to the final round of the qualification draw at WTT Contender in WTT Doha 2021.

Yang Haeun wins match point against Melanie Diaz off a 26-shot rally.
Game 1

Diaz opened up the match strong, and combined with three backhand errors from Yang was able to jump to a 5-0 lead. Yang then tried stepping around for a forehand, which went off the table too, extending Diaz’s lead to 6-0. Yang came back from the time-out down 6-0 and then scored her first point with a long fast serve that Diaz missed. After three nice rallies by Yang and a missed block and serve return Diaz, Yang was able to level the score to 6-6.

Diaz was able to stem the bleeding with a nice step-around forehand winner against Yang’s weak opening to the elbow, but Yang was able to respond with a couple of winners of her own to level the score to 8-8. Diaz missed a backhand from her elbow, giving Yang her first lead at 9-8. Yang missed a forehand opening that leveled it to 9-9, but then caught a net and an edge in the same shot to take a 10-9 lead. Diaz was able to level it to deuce, but Yang landed a reliable loop to Diaz’s elbow and a wide winner to Diaz’s backhand to take the first game 12-10.

Game 2

The two players exchanged missed serve return and quick winners to open the second game. Diaz won a pair of rallies at 4-4 to give her the 6-4 lead with serve. Yang saved a net mid-rally in the next point to cut the lead to 6-5, and Diaz then called time out. Coming out of the timeout, Diaz tried her less frequently used backhand serve, but it was to no avail as Yang returned it comfortably and then win the ensuing rally.

Diaz was able to take the next point thanks to a net ball, but Yang then unleashed a clinic of ball placement as she won five straight points off of wide blocks to both Diaz’s forehand and backhand corner, taking game 2 in a dominant 11-7 fashion.

Game 3

In game 3, Yang returned to attacking Diaz’s elbow with great effectiveness. Despite getting two early net balls, Diaz did not help herself by missing a high ball in the first point of the game and then hesitating to kill an easy ball when down 4-3. Yang was able to build a 7-4 lead in this manner, at which point she won two lucky balls in the next three points, putting her up 9-5.

After two missed openings and another trusty spinny ball to Diaz’s elbow that Diaz blocked off the table, Yang found herself up 10-7 for her second match point. Diaz and Yang then unleashed the point of the match with a 26-shot rally that ended with a down-the-line winner from Yang’s backhand to Diaz’s wide forehand, giving Yang the match 3-0.

With the upset over Diaz, Yang continues to outperform her world ranking in 2021. She previously beat WR 21 Suh Hyowon and WR 64 Choi Hyojoo (who was eventually selected for the team) at the Korean Olympic trials. Yang will face Choi again in the final round of the qualification draw.

Notes

ITTF’s COVID towel policy continues to confuse players. Diaz and Yang originally tried to switch towels after game 1, but were barred from doing so by the umpires. This resulted in an awkward situation where they had to cross paths during the towel break in game 2.

The match was streamed on ITTF’s Youtube Live Stream.

If you liked this article, please follow Edges and Nets on Facebook or Instagram to stay updated.

Unless stated otherwise, all images and footage in this post can respectively be found on ITTF’s Flickr page and the ITTV channel or ITTF’s Youtube Channel.

This match was covered live. All live posts are shown below.

 

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