World Junior Champion Harimoto Tomokazu fell short of living up to the hype, but his compatriots from Japan swept the Under-21 titles to spoil Hong Kong’s party in the USD 150,000 ITTF World Tour India Open Table Tennis tournament here on Wednesday. Though Tomokazu's team-mates Sakai Asuka and Mori Sakura claimed the honours, Tomokazu’s loss in the semifinal to Hong Kong’s Lam Siu Hang proved the talking point of the second day.
Lam Siu Hang attacked on both flanks, repeatedly pinned Tomokazu to the backhand and eventually managed to eke out an 11-6, 3-11, 16-18, 11-9, 11-9 victory in about 50 minutes. Tomokazu, who will be 14 this June, produced flashes of brilliance against his older rival but could not win the big points in the last two games.
As it turned out, Lam Siu Hang’s joy was destined to be short-lived when Sakai Asuka won the five-game final 11-8, 5-11, 11-4, 10-12, 11-8. At the adjacent table, Mori Sakura also needed five games to down Soo Wai Yam Minnie 4-11, 13-11, 6-11, 11-5, 12-10 in a thrilling finish to the women Under-21 final.
In the semifinal, Soo Wai Yam Minnie ended the Indian challenge by stopping Akula Sreeja 11-2, 13-11, 11-7.
Six Indians in main draw
Meanwhile, in the men singles, six Indians will be seen in the main draw beginning on Thursday. Sharath Kamal, the only Indian seed, will take on Frenchman Can Azzuku, ranked 129th. Soumyajit Ghosh plays 60th ranked Ricardo Walther while German compatriot Patrick Baum, ranked 71, will be Sanil Shetty’s opening round rival. A. Amalraj has the toughest draw, having to play fourth seeded Japanese Koki Niwa. G. Sathiyan also has a Japanese rival in Masataka Morizono, ranked 56th, while Harmeet Desai clashes with 77th-ranked Tristan Flore of France.
The picture is rosier for the Indian ladies with at least four players assured of a place in the second round. Leading home challenger Manika Batra takes on Mousumi Paul, Ankita Das faces Sutirtha Mukherjee, Mouma Das plays A. Sreeja and Archana Kamath meets Ayhika Mukherjee in the first round.
However, the going is set to be extremely tough for Manika or Mousumi after running into top seed Doo Hoi Kem from Hong Kong. Young Krittwika Roy faces eight seed Jiang Huajun, another Hong Kong girl, in the top quarter of the draw. The winner of this match takes on either Ankita or Sutirtha. Another youngster Selena Selvakumar will be up against Portugal’s Jieni Shao, the fifth seed who will be the highest ranked player in action in the first round where the top four seeds enjoy byes.
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