by Simon Daish
The Under 21 Men’s Singles category saw two players from Belarus end the opening day sitting top of their groups: Aliaksandr Khanin and Ilia Kortchinski.
Khanin began group 4 with a solid 3-0 win over Daniil Leshchanka (Belarus), but he faced a difficult challenge in his second match.
Russian competitor Petr Fedotov moved ahead on two separate occasions in the tie, taking both games one and three. However, Khanin was the home favourite and what better inspiration for a comeback than the lure of impressing in front of your fans and sure enough back-to-back wins followed for the Belarusian (6-11, 11-4, 8-11, 12-10, 11-8) putting Khanin first in the group.
Kortchinski is also ranked first in his group, but could be dethroned from top spot in tomorrow’s action. Day one actually started strongly for Kortchinski, beating fellow Belarusian Pavel Daunarovich 3-1 but a disappointing 0-3 loss to Konstantin Chernov (Russia) has left Kortchinski in a nervous position moving forward.
One Belgian Through, Two on the Cusp
Florian Cnudde is one of three Belgian players who are placed in the top two of their groups, with Thibaut Darcis and Valentin Pieraert keeping alive the dream of seeing all three of the country’s entries progress beyond the preliminary groups.
Group 8 has already witnessed Cnudde qualify to the main draw after victories against Andrei Labanau (Belarus) and Ivan Nikulin (Russia), and the right result in tomorrow’s match with Maksim Kiselev will be enough to see Cnudde seal first.
However, the scenario for both Darcis and Pieraert is looking to be a much trickier course than their compatriot endured. Both Darcis and Pieraert won one match each but also lost one match each, requiring results to go their way in the final round of group encounters.
Lazarkova Closes in on Qualification
Belarus’s Volha Lazarkova ends the opening day as arguably her country’s strongest hope to qualify from the Under 21 Women’s Singles groups, having won both of her day one matches.
First up for Lazarkova was another Belarusian, Darya Kisel and a comfortable victory followed for the former of the two players, but disaster almost struck for Lazarkova against Melanie Diaz.
Puerto Rican player Melanie Diaz is the sister of Rio 2016 Olympian Adriana Diaz, and despite this being only Melanie’s third World Tour event she showed enough grit and determination to very nearly cause an upset.
All five games were needed and in the end Lazarkova stood firm to take the win, but Melanie Diaz has the ambition of becoming a top Table Tennis star in the future:
“As for my future aspirations, I am planning to take part in the upcoming Olympic Games, so to join my sister, and hopefully take the medal.” – Melanie Diaz (Puerto Rico).
Asian Players Make the Cut
There are only two Asian players taking part in the preliminary group stage, and both are into the main event.
Chinese Taipei’s Lin Chia-Hsuan beat Anna Dmitrieva of Russia without dropping an end; a win for Lin over Marharyta Baltushite (Belarus) will see her take the group.
Park Seri (Korea Republic) is also through after a 3-0 clean sweep victory against Ulyana Alkhouskaya, a result that ultimately condemned the Belarusian to an early exit.
Wednesday 7th September: Under 21 Men’s Singles – Qualification Stage
Wednesday 7th September: Under 21 Women’s Singles – Qualification Stage