The stars of the World Junior Championships will once again get a chance to sparkle, at the Youth Olympic Games 2014 that begin tomorrow in Nanjing.
World Junior singles champions Lin Gui Pu (China; below) and Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi (featured image) start as favourites, but those who missed their opportunity earlier this year will be eager to grab the chance.
China’s Lin (2) will be wary of his compatriot and top seed Shi Yuqi, whom he beat in a tough contest in the World Junior final. Both have some way to go before their expected final materialises, though. The format consists of a group stage followed by knock-out. Toppers from each of the eight groups (in both singles and Mixed Doubles events) will progress to the quarter-finals.
Shi Yuqi is in Group A with Singapore’s Bernard Ong, Korea’s Seo Seung Jae and Ghana’s Abraham Ayittey. If he tops Group A, he might run into Germany’s Max Weisskirchen (Group B), whose group includes Alex Vlaar (Netherlands), Tanguy Citron (France) and Andraz Krapez (Slovenia).
Malaysia’s hopes will be pinned on Cheam June Wei, quarter-finalist at the World Junior Championships. Cheam is expected to top Group C and make the quarter-finals against Vietnam’s Pham Cao Cuong (5/8). The latter, however, might have his hands full against the likes of India’s Aditya’s Joshi, Serbia’s Dragoslav Petrovic and Ukraine’s Ruslan Sarsekenov in Group D.
Lin, if he tops Group H, could face Hong Kong’s promising prospect Lee Cheuk Yiu (Group G) in the quarter-finals, and possibly Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama (Group E), Indonesia’s Anthony Ginting or Sri Lanka’s Sachin Premashan Dias (Group F).
Japan’s hottest young prospect in Women’s Singles, Akane Yamaguchi, stands a good shot at adding a Youth Olympic Games gold medal to her twin World Junior titles. The top seed will certainly not take her group lightly, for it includes Danish hope Mia Blichfeldt. Sri Lanka’s Thilini Pramodika Hendahewa and Chlorie Cadeau (Seychelles) are also in Group A.
Group B could boil down to the contest between India’s Ruthvika Shivani (5/8) and Indonesia’s Ruselli Hartawan, while Group C has China’s Qin Jingjing, one of those who could give Yamaguchi plenty to think about in their expected semi-final clash.
Thailand’s Busanan Ongbumrungpan, a familiar face at the senior level, will seek to make amends for her quarter-final loss at the World Juniors. The Thai should be able to top Group F and enter the quarter-finals where she could run into Germany’s Luise Heim.
World Junior Championships finalist He Bing Jiao (China) is seeded 2 and will seek to reverse the result of her loss to Yamaguchi. Among the likely upset-makers are Lee Chia Hsin (Chinese Taipei) and Liang Xiaoyu (Singapore).
While there is an element of certainty about the singles quarter-finalists, the Mixed Doubles is likely to throw up unexpected results. This is because the event, which is debuting at the Youth Olympic Games, comprises the 64 singles players teaming up with partners from other countries. The pairs were selected after a random draw. This aspect makes the Mixed Doubles the least predictable of the three categories, with players required to hit it off with partners with whom they have never played.
Among the partnerships to look out for are top seeds Ruslan Sarsekenov (Ukraine)/Akane Yamaguchi (Japan); Anthony Ginting (Indonesia)/Katarina Beton (Slovenia); Kanta Tsuneyama (Japan)/Lee Chia Hsin (Chinese Taipei); Sri Lanka’s Sachin Premashan Dias (above)/He Bing Jiao (China) and Alex Vlaar (Netherlands)/Janine Lais (Austria).