Tokyo, Japan, May 1, 2014 – Japan looks on course to secure a place in the finals of the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships, after a good draw ensured that they will not meet top seeds China until then.
The Japanese emerged top of Group C of the men’s event after recovering from a shock opening day defeat to Greece. Japan defeated Hungary 3-2 in the last round of the group stage matches today, earning their spot in the quarterfinals.
“The most important thing is that we came back from the defeat in the first match,” said Japanese men’s team coach Yosuke KURASHIMA.
Masato SHIONO, who celebrated his 28th birthday yesterday made his ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships debut against Hungary’s Janos JAKAB, much to the delight of the home crowd. The defender won his match comfortably, defeating JAKAB 3-0.
“The match went my way and I could play my style of table tennis,” SHIONO said. “And as a player my age, it is a privilege to play in the National team, and to lead the team to win.”
SHIONO also attributed his success today to a new serve he had practiced, something KURASHIMA also noticed.
“Shiono was very strong, and his serves were especially strong,” KURASHIMA said. He cannot only defend, but his attacks are sharp.”
“With him we can now compete with our women’s team for the medals!” KURASHIMA added jokingly.
Japan will now face the winner of Portugal and Poland in the quarterfinals, and a potential semi-final encounter with Germany should they win.
The Germans themselves, who won the bronze medal at London 2012 remain unbeaten in the tournament after today’s 3-2 win over Ukraine, where Oleksandr DIDUKH upset current world no.4 Dimitrij OVTCHAROV in five sets. Germany will play the winner of Singapore and Sweden for a place in the semi-finals.
In the top half of the championship draw, favorites China will play the winner of Austria and Greece, and Korea Republic will play the winner of Chinese Taipei and Croatia in the quarterfinals.
Korea Republic finished first in their group despite losing 2-3 to Korea DPR, in arguably one of the most exciting matches of the tournament so far. JUNG Youngsik and CHO Eonrae gave Korea Republic a 2-0 lead, but the Korea DPR trio of KIM Nam Chol, KIM Hyok Bong and CHOE IL fought back to emerge victorious.
Vocal Korea DPR supporters filled up the Yoyogi National Gymnaisum, turning the upper levels into a sea of red. But among the Korea DPR flags, signs and banners, a couple of white Korea united flags were spotted as well.
For student leader Lee Kwang-il, the flags, first appearing at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships, are a symbol of a unified Korea.
“We may be cheering for Korea DPR today, but we brought the flag to show our brotherhood.”
“We will always be hoping for a reunited Korea,” Lee added.
Japan also avoided a clash with China in the women’s championship rounds. The Japanese women’s team, the only unbeaten team left in the competition other than the Chinese will face the winner of the match between Chinese Taipei and Belarus, with a potential semi-final encounter against Hong Kong. Hong Kong plays the winner of Germany and Belarus.
2010 world champions Singapore won their group with a 3-1 victory against France. Korea Republic finished second after defeating Luxembourg 3-2.
This was the second time the Korean team faced an upset this tournament, narrowly edging out the Netherlands 3-2 in an earlier group match.
Singapore will now face the winner of Korea Republic and Romania in the main draw of the women’s team championships. China will play the winner of Korea DPR and Ukraine in the other half of the bracket.
The ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships, held in Tokyo, Japan from 28 April to 5 May, is also the largest world championships in ITTF history, with 144 men’s and 95 women’s teams participating. —- Photo credit: Remy Gros/ITTF