Lee Sangsu (WR #22) defeated Jeoung Youngsik (WR #13) 4-0 (11-8, 12-10, 11-9, 11-9) in their final match at South Korea’s Olympic trials on Feb 1, winning the first leg of the Olympic trials for the table tennis men’s singles event at the Tokyo Olympics (which ITTF insists will happen). The match was streamed live on Korean Table Tennis Association (KTTA) TV’s Youtube channel and can be re-watched here.
The format for the Olympic trials appears to be two 5-way round robins. The player with the best results across both round robins will represent South Korea in the men’s singles event alongside Jang Woojin (WR #11), who directly qualified by virtue of world rank. ITTF caps the number of players in the singles event at two per country, but a third player may also play as part of the team event. This third player will be selected through coach’s selection. (Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Lee Sangsu had already secured a spot for himself in the Olympics. This seems to not have been the case (although Lee eventually did win the trials), and we have corrected the error. We apologize for the mistake.)
It is not entirely clear how KTTA defines "best" or if there is a bonus for winning the first round robin. Nevertheless, by being the only player with three wins in the round robin, Lee Sangsu has put himself in the leading position. We were unable to find posted Day 2 results by KTTA, but based on the posted Day 1 results, the matches streamed on Youtube, and fan-made comments, the final standings should look something like this:
|Jeoung Youngsik||Lee Sangsu||An Jaehyun||Lim Jonghoon||Cho Daesong||Record||Place|
|Jeoung Youngsik (WR #13)||N/A||0-4||2-4||4-0||4-2||2-2||2|
|Lee Sangsu (WR #22)||4-0||N/A||0-4||Win||4-3||3-1||1|
|An Jaehyun (WR #39)||4-2||4-0||N/A||3-4||0-4||2-2||3|
|Lim Jonghoon (WR #71)||0-4||Loss||4-3||N/A||Win||2-2||4|
|Cho Daesong (WR #141)||2-4||3-4||4-0||Loss||N/A||1-3||5|
Note that Lee Sangsu’s win over Lim Jonghoon and Lim Jonghoon’s win over Cho Daesong were gathered from fan-made comments, and Edges and Nets has not yet verified these results.
The match was closer than the 4-0 score may indicate as Jeoung had opportunities at winning each of the four games.
Whether due to jitters or for another reason, both players got off to a rocky start in the first game. After requesting to switch balls at 2-3, Jeoung Youngsik was still unable to find a rhythm as he failed to win the point on every single one of his first eight serves, including a missed serve at 4-8. Lee Sangsu missed two serves of his own at 4-3 and 10-4; the second missed serve sparked a mini-run from Jeoung as he closed the gap to 10-8. However, at 10-8, Lee served a fast long ball to Jeoung’s elbow, and Jeoung was unable to step around quickly enough and hit the ball out, giving Lee the game 11-8.
Lee’s service woes continued into game 2 as he missed a serve at 1-0. Otherwise, he was in complete control of the first half of the game, building an 8-1 lead, with the only lost point being due to the missed serve. However, with a combination of impressive counters by Jeoung and missed aggressive—perhaps too aggressive—openings by Lee, the lead closed to 3-8, 7-9 and then eventually 10-10. At 10-10, Lee again went for the fast long serve, this time wider to the backhand. Jeoung was able to step around for the forehand opening, but was unable to make it back for Lee’s wide block to Jeoung’s forehand. With the advantage, Lee landed a well-placed serve return to Jeoung’s elbow, which he hit into the net, giving Lee the game 12-10.
Jeoung opened the game with a solid service game, building an early 4-1 lead. After two missed openings by Lee and a lucky net-ball by Jeoung, Jeoung was able to further extend his lead to 9-4. However, Lee caught an edge of his own at 9-4, and two solid third-balls and a rally later, the lead was down to 9-8. Jeoung called a time-out but to no avail as Lee won the next point anyway. With the serve at 9-9, Lee again went for two long serves to Jeoung’s backhand. Jeoung received both with a safe backhand opening that Lee aggressively took advantage of, capping a 7-0 run and taking the game 11-9.
Jeoung started the game with a series of well-placed openings that Lee failed to anticipate well, giving Jeoung an early 5-1 lead. Despite a missed short push and long backhand opening that cut the lead to 5-3, Jeoung was able to maintain the lead until 8-5 before dropping three straight points to level the game at 8-8. With his final pair of serves in the game, Lee again went for the fast long serve to Jeoung’s elbow, which Jeoung promptly killed with the step-around forehand. After a short net-serve at 8-9, Lee again went for the fast long serve, this time wide to the backhand. Jeoung only managed a soft opening that Lee was able to convert into a point in two shots. At 9-9, Jeoung appeared to try to step around slightly early on both his serves, and Lee took advantage both times with two flicks wide to Jeoung’s forehand, taking the game 11-9 and the match 4-0.
- At 1-0 in the third game, Jeoung Youngsik had to change racquets due to apparent damage along the edge of his rubber
- Jeoung Youngsik holds a 6-0 record against Lee Sangsu in international competition, with the most recent win being a 4-0 win in the 2018 Australia Open.
- Both players represented South Korea at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, where Jeoung Youngsik famously came quite close to beating eventual gold medalist Ma Long in a 2-4 (6-11, 10-12, 11-5, 11-1, 13-11, 13-11) loss in the round of 16. However, with the rise of the 25-year old Jang Woojin, only one singles spot remains for Jeoung or Lee.
- 21-year old An Jaehyun (WR #39) upset both Jeoung and Lee but was in turn upset by Lim Jonghoon (WR #71) and Cho Daesong (WR #141), thereby placing him in the middle of the pack. Had An avoided being upset by either Lim or Cho, then he would have won the round-robin.