Japan Open: Kreanga wins title

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Umemura did not make it

Lausanne, Switzerland, 15 September 2002. Aya UMEMURA couldn’t reach the ultimate goal – to win a Pro Tour title in front of her home crowd. She has already won two Pro Tour events in Women’s Singles but winning in front of the Japanese crowd would have been sweeter than anything else.

However Mihaela STEFF (ROM) was too big an obstacle for UMEMURA. The Japanese took the 1st game easily but then STEFF found out how to break UMEMURA’s fast game. The Romanian went to 2-1 and though UMEMURA evened to 2-2 STEFF did not let go. She took the next two – very close - games to take the match 4-2.
In the other semi-final KIM Kyung Ah’s solid defensive was too big a mountain for the young unranked Chinese WANG Shan. Chinese players have won the Women’s Singles at the Japan Open since 1996. This year there is no Chinese in the final.
KIM Kyung Ah was also in the final last year where she lost to the World Champion WANG Nan (CHN).

Chuan too fast for youngster

Lausanne, Switzerland, 15 September 2002. The young Chinese QIU Yuke had to surrender to the fast game of CHUAN Chi-Yuan (TPE) in the semi-final of Men’s Singles on Sunday.

CHUAN is one of the fastest moving players in the World and during the last year he has improved a lot and made a big step forward on the World Ranking (currently nr. 16). QIU, only 17 and unranked, still has to sort out how to break a player who is faster than yourself.
CHUAN had the lead 1-0 and 3-1 and though QIU took one more game, CHUAN was still in control. He won 4-2 to advance to his second Pro Tour final. He lost the first one – against Jean-Michel SAIVE (BEL) in Qatar this year.

In the final in Japan he will find Kalinikos KREANGA (GRE) who has much more experience than the young QIU Yuke. KREANGA until now has had a great tournament, after beating Jean-Michel SAIVE in the quarters he overcame Zoran PRIMORAC in the semi-final. KREANGA had the lead all the way, and he won 4-2.

Like CHUAN also KREANGA has earlier been in one final – and lost. In few hours one of them has a Pro Tour title.

Singaporean comfort

Lausanne, Switzerland, 15 September 2002. After a disappointing performance at the Women’s World Cup in Singapore, the Singaporeans JING Jun Hong and LI Jia Wei really needed a good result. They were close at the Korea Open where they reached the final in Women’s Doubles – on Sunday they got it winning the Women’s Doubles at the Japan Open.

JING and LI were seeded second, but in the final they beat the top seeds KIM Bok Rae/KIM Kyung Ah (KOR). The defensive Koreans did not even come close. They lost 4-0 – however the last game only 13-15.
The Koreans won the Japan Open last year (and German Open as well) but on Sunday they did not have many chances against the Singaporeans who took their first Pro Tour title ever.

KIM Kyung Ah however still has a chance for a Japanese title. Later she plays in the singles final against Mihaela STEFF.

Sweet victory for Japanese

Kobe, Japan, 15 September, 2002. Toshio TASAKI (JPN) has been in a Pro Tour final three times before, but finally his first victory came – in Japan in front of the home crowd!!!!

Toshio TASAKI, playing his fifth tournament ever together with compatriot Akira KITO, won the Men’s Doubles at the Japan Open.

After a marathon match they took the 7th game and the match 11-6 against Germans Timo BOLL/Bastian STEGER.
“We got a very bad start in the last game, 0-3, 2-7, and that was too much for us”, says Timo BOLL. He played for the second time ever with Bastian Steger.

“We played quite well in the final as well as in the earlier rounds where we beat strong pairs”, BOLL continues.

TASAKI and KITO got together just by “accident” - TASAKI used to play with Seiko ISEKI but he has had problems with one of his feet so the national coach of Japan looked for a new partner for TASAKI.

“I tried with several different partners before KITO – now we hope to continue together”, TASAKI says.

Zhang came back from the edge

Kobe, Japan, 15 September 2002. ZHANG Jike of (CHN) showed his technical en mental power in the Men’s Under 21 Final at the Japan Open on Sunday.

ZHANG Jike, just 14 years old, turned 0-3 down into a 4-3-victory after an impressing attacking game against the local hero Seiya KISHIKAWA.
The 2000 spectators in Kobe were impressed. In spite of his only 14 years of age ZHANG Jike has a game of an adult, and earlier this year he won both in singles, doubles and team at the Youth Festival in Hungary.

His opponent in the final in Kobe, Seiya KISHIKAWA, 15, is one of the most promising players in Japan.

“I felt a lot of pressure playing the final, so many people were watching. When I was 0-3 down I could only try to continue to do my best. I did not think about winning, just tried to concentrate on winning one point after the other”, says ZHANG.

After six month at the national training centre in Beijing ZHANG’s goal is clear:

“I want to take part in the Olympics 2008”.

Japan has not had a World Champion since Seijo ONO won the Men’s Singles in Pyongyang in 1979. The former leading table tennis nation in the World needs a new star – Seiya KISHIKAWA has the potential.

“I felt that I was going to win but leading 3-0 I lost my focus. ZHANG, on the contrary, kept his concentration all the way”, says a disappointed KISHIKAWA.

Kim Kyung Ah likes Japan

Kobe, Japan, 15 September 2002. “It seems that Kobe is my lucky place. I won the doubles here last year, also reached the singles final in 2001, and this year I won the title”.

KIM Kyung Ah of Korea, World nr 29, was quite pleased after her final against Mihaela STEFF (ROM). Kim Kyung Ah trusted her spectacular defensive, which gave her most of the points. Only occasionally she went into counter attack. A defensive Pro Tour Champion is a rare thing.
“In Korea it is difficult for me to get results since our players are used to play against defensive players – against foreign players I have more confidence. I had never played STEFF before but already from the very beginning I thought I was going to win”, says KIM Kyung Ah, who has been in the national team for 10 years.

After KIM’s 2-0 lead STEFF started to play better and she evened to 2-2. The 5th game was crucial - KIM Kyung Ah won it 14-12.

“Of course I was disappointed, especially after leading 10-8 in the 1st and then again 10-9 in the 5th. At 10-9 I hit hard four or five times, but she was like a wall”, says STEFF who got angry with herself, kicked the ball away - and got a yellow card.

STEFF had difficulties in recovering from the disappointment and in the 6th game the Romanian made some easy mistakes. KIM, 25, took the game, the match and the title.

Kreanga - finally

Kobe, Japan, 15 September 2002. Finally – after trying for so long - Kalinikos KREANGA (GRE) got his Pro Tour title.
KREANGA did not only beat young CHUAN Chi-Yuan (TPE) in the final, he also won the hearts of the spectators with his game – and on top of that he was shouting in Japanese when making something good at the table.

“You need to win some of the important points, and to do that you need skills – and luck”, says KREANGA after winning the final 4-2.

The Greek, who was born in Romania but left for Greece at the age of 17, has been in both singles and doubles finals before but this is his first title.

“I have played well since the European Championships (KREANGA lost the Men’s Singles final to Timo BOLL (GER) - now slowly I start looking forward to the Olympics in Greece 2004”.

After being 0-2 down CHUAN Chih-Yuan came back to 2-2 winning the two games 11-9. KREANGA however went to 3-2 and in the last game the Greek got a very good start. CHUAN Chih-Yuan managed to close the gap a little but not enough and KREANGA showed his emotions with stretching both arms in the air after another rally and his first match point.

The 2000 people in the hall loved the way he made points with his backhand top spin.

“I am quite sure to hit the ball with my backhand”, KREANGA says. From outside it looks like he is taking a lot of chances but he does not make many mistakes.

“I got a little bit confused in the 4th game, my rubber was badly glued, and I did not know if I was allowed to re-glue so I continued - and how to celebrate? Actually I just need rest. Tomorrow practice and on Tuesday I play in an invitation tournament in Japan.

KREANGA takes home 15.000 US Dollars for the Japan Open title. Read what others have to say:

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