Australian Open – From the eyes of a former tour regular
Players from all around the world will compete for mens and womens singles titles while also battling it out for the 3 doubles titles. All singles matches will be best of 7 sets with the doubles events being best of 5 sets. I have always followed the Australian Open results as it seems to be an event which attracts the best players because of the prize fund plus the high world ranking points which are handed out for each match won. I think it also has an attraction for the top players because of the time of year in which the tournament falls. In Europe the league season finishes at the end of May/start of June so I have always seen some players use the Australian Open as a good opportunity to play a competitive event while also having a small holiday with their partners or friends.
Last year saw Xu Xin and Liu Shiwen, both from China, taking the singles titles, but who are in contention this year? From looking on the entry list on the ITTF website players like Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Chuang Chih-Yuan, Liam Pitchford and vice world champion Mattias Falck to name just a few have all entered along with the Japanese and Chinese national teams. The Aussies have a strong line up of 20 players playing as well with the recently crowned National Champion Heming Hu leading the line. From LOOPS we have Melissa Tapper and Xavier Dixon competing in the event with both hoping to cause upsets and rattle the cages of the big players!
Are the Japanese ready for the Tokyo Olympics?
The Australian Open will mark 13 months to go until the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo and I have taken a look into the Japanese team to see if they are ready to claim the biggest prizes in our sport. Two player who I would recommend to look out for in Geelong would be Tomokazu Harimoto and Mima Ito both have taken the world’s breath away with stunning performances. Harimoto is just 15 years old and already got as high as number 4 in the world on the ITTF ranking. He became World Junior Champion in 2016 at the age of 13 while last year he won the his biggest prize to date: the Pro Tour Grand Finals beating arguably the best table tennis player of all times Ma Long on route to claim the title. Mima Ito (19 years old) also had some outstanding achievements from a young age become the youngest girl to win a match at the Japanese National Championships at the age of 10! She currently sits at number 7 on the ITTF world ranking list and has beaten the best Chinese women on numerous occasions.
With these two leading the line for Japan I feel they are on the right way for the Olympics and future big events. When you add experienced players such as Jun Mizutani and Kasumi Ishikawa to the mix I feel they can challenge the Chinese players.
All in all I feel the Australian Open is going to be a massive success and if anyone can get a chance to go and witness the world’s best players play, I don’t think you should pass it up.