Koreans in form on opening day in Lahti

The Republic of Korea players were very present on the first day of play, Friday 9e September, during the Finland Para Open 2022 in Lahti, notably in the men’s single wheelchair category.

Kim Hakjin, Lee Kyeonghun, and Park Jaehyun all caused upheaval by overcoming top-ranked opponents in their initial stage matches; more importantly, all went undefeated to secure the top spots in the group.

Competing in class 1, Kim Hakjin recorded a remarkable success; he represented Briton Rob Davies (8-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-9), a memorable gold medalist from the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

First stage defeat for Peter Mihalik but title hopes still alive (Photo: Tero Naumi)

Similarly, in class 4, Lee Kyeonghun beat Slovak Peter Mihalik (11-4, 7-11, 11-8, 12-10), winner earlier this year of the Czech Para Open; Not to overshadow in class 5, Park Jaehyun beat the Chinese Taipei Cheng Minh-Chih (11-8, 11-8, 11-9), winner two years ago at the Pajulahti tournament (11- 8, 11-8, 11-9).

Significantly, it was the only loss for the three famous names, who all progressed to the main draw; Rob Davies and Lee Kyeonghun directly in the semi-finals, Cheng Min-Chih in the quarter-finals where he beat the Japanese Ryota Nakamura (11-5, 11-4, 11-7).

So, with the Koreans through to the penultimate round, and in the opposite half of the draw, the finals could see a repeat of the group stage contests.

Three upsets in the men’s singles events on opening day; there was one in ladies’ singles.

In class 11, a five-player all-play-all event, Poland’s Ewa Cychowska beat Thailand’s Wanna Sayeyang, seeded number 1 (11-8, 11-2, 11-6). Ewa Cychowska ended the day as the only undefeated player in the event.

Wanna Sayeyang, seeded number 11 in women’s singles, beaten by Ewa Cychowska (Photo: Tero Naumi)

Otherwise, the top seeds came out unscathed.

Present in men’s singles, it was a profitable day in the wheelchair events for the Mexican Victor Reyes (class 2) and the Frenchman Sylvain Noel (class 3), a situation which also applied in the standing competitions.

Britain’s Paul Karabardak (class 6) and Will Bayley (class 7) finished the day without a hitch, as did Sweden’s Emil Andersson and Su Jin San (class 10) from Chinese Taipei. It was the same for the Belgians Laurens Devos (class 9) and Florian van Acker (class 11).

Likewise, in the women’s singles, Korea’s Jung Younga (class 1-5) finished the day unbeaten, a situation that also applied to Sweden’s Cajsa Stadler (class 6-7), Norway’s Aida Dahlen ( class 8) and the Chinese Tian Shiao-Wen (class 9-10).

Notable performances, for the host country, Timo Natunen and Aino Tapola caught the eye.

Timo Natunen in form at home (Photo: Tero Naumi)

On duty in class 1 of the men’s singles, Timo Natunen turned the tide against the Republic of Korea by beating Park Sunjoo, seeded n°2 (9-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7, 11-8), remaining undefeated at the top of the group; for Park Junsoo, it was his only setback and therefore a place in the semi-finals.

A medal awaits Timo Natunen, the same goes for Aino Tapola in class 1 women’s singles. In the group stage, she was beaten by Korea’s Jung Younga, seeded n°1 (11-2, 11-7, 11-5) but recovered to defeat Mexico’s Martha Verdin (11-6, 11-8, 11-8) to book second place and therefore a place in the semi-finals.

The men’s singles and women’s singles events end on Saturday 10e September.

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