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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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