26 Aug 2016

Quarter-finalists one year ago, the host nation’s Kirill Popov and Aleksandar Karakasevic from neighbouring Serbia, both suffered first round defeats as matters progressed in the lower half of the draw in the Men’s Singles event at the Asarel 2016 ITTF World Tour Bulgaria Open in Panagyurishte on Friday 26th August.

One year ago, Kirill Popov had flown the flag for his country, the only Bulgarian to reach the last eight; one year later he was not able to repeat the feat. Furthermore, his defeat ended the host nation’s interest in the Men’s Singles competition.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

However, the defeat was not unexpected; he was beaten by Frenchman, Romain Ruiz, the no.32 seed, in five games (11-7, 3-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-7).

“The tournament is at a very high level, although last year there were more highly ranked players, I think because most of them were at the Olympic Games in Rio. I’m not satisfied with my game, my opponent had very strong service and I had difficulties with this. He found my weak spot and he took advantage of it.” Kirill Popov after losing to Romain Ruiz

Major upset

Conversely, the defeat experienced by Aleksandar Karakasevic was an upset. The no.5 seed, he was present on the ITTF World in the very first year of the concept in 1996, notably the following year at the 1997 World Championships in Manchester, he beat the reigning Olympic champion of the time, China’s Liu Guoliang. It was arguably the tournament’s biggest surprise.

In Panagyurishte, the boot was on the other foot; now 40 year old, he was beaten by a player half his age; he suffered at the hands of Denmark’s 20 year old Klaus Nielsen in a dramatic seven games encounter decided by the very narrowest of margins (1-11, 11-9, 11-8, 8-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-9).

“My performance was great. I was told by my coach about the tactics and how I should play, just go into the game, nothing to lose and I just to try my best. It was hard to win but I liked playing against him. He is much older than me and has much more experience. At the end of the math I had some luck but I must admit I was very nervous. The fact that the crowd was definitely supporting my opponent didn’t matter for me at all.” Claus Nielsen after beating Aleksandar Karakasevic

Further surprises

A surprise defeat for Aleksandar Karakasevic and there were two more upsets as matters progressed in the lower half of the draw in the Men’s Singles event.

India’s Manav Vikash Thakkar beat Sweden’s Elias Ranefur, the no.22 seed (11-9, 11-8, 11-7, 10-12, 7-11, 11-7); Frenchman, Thomas Le Breton ended the hopes of Italy’s Niagol Stoyanov, the no.14 seed (6-11, 11-9, 13-11, 7-11, 3-11, 11-6, 11-8).

Authority asserted

Surprises but not where Japan’s Taku Takakiwa, the Czech Republic’s Tomas Konecny and Antoine Hachard, like Thomas Le Breton from France, were concerned.

All accounted for Bulgarian adversaries. Taku Takakiwa, the no.2 seed, overcame Yavor Belakov (11-5, 11-6, 11-1, 11-1), Tomas Konecny, the no.3 seed, defeated Teodor Alexandrov (11-7, 11-6, 11-7, 11-6); Antoine Hachard, the no.6 seed, ended the hopes of Konstantin Vatov (11-2, 11-4, 11-6, 11-6).

World Tour Bulgaria Open Aleksandar Karakasevic Claus Nielsen