by Simon Daish
Ibrahima Diaw had been placed in a relatively difficult group, but day one victories for the French star against Qiu Dang (Germany) and Daniel Kriston (Hungary) put Diaw in a strong position to win group 4.
Awaiting Diaw (102nd) on the second day was Lai Chi-Chien (Chinese Taipei), who was seeded 26 places higher in 76th but the difference in seedings didn’t help Lai in the match as Diaw sealed his spot in the main draw with a 4-0 win (12-10, 11-7, 11-9, 12-10).
“It’s incredible! I win three matches in my first World Tour Tournament and qualify for the main draw. I like the atmosphere and the hall here. My opponents didn’t have powerful strokes and then I could dominate, but it was not always easy. I am enjoying myself here and play with no pressure” – Ibrahima Diaw (France).
2016 has been an amazing year for English Table Tennis, with England having secured the bronze medal at the 2016 World Team Championships alongside three English players impressing for Great Britain at Rio 2016. However, it was a mixed day for the country’s two competitors in De Haan.
Michael O’Driscoll missed out on the runner-up spot to Thibaut Darcis (Belgium) by just a single group point but for Helshan Weerasinghe there was nothing but delight after he topped group 7, beating Jasper Merckx (Belgium) in the final group encounter.
Brian Afanador is one of his country’s national sporting heroes after becoming the first male Puerto Rican Table Tennis player to qualify for the Singles category of an Olympic Games. But he came mighty close to losing first place in group 1, requiring four games in a row to recover from 0-3 down to defeat Irvin Bertrand of France (8-11, 7-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-9, 11-5).
Another Latin American contestant to reach the next round was Salvador Uribe (Mexico), picking up a 4-0 victory against Lithuania’s Tomas Mikutis on day two.
While the winners of the 20 groups all moved into the Round of 64, the players who finished in second place had to go through another preliminary round of matches.
The home fans will be happy heading into the third day, with two of their players making it out of the preliminary play-offs as Julien Indeherberg and Jasper Merckx negotiated Alfredas Udra (Lithuania) and Claus Nielsen (Denmark) respectively.
Dennis Klein and Qiu Dang beat Manfredas Udra (Lithuania) and Gael Vende (Switzerland) but Germany saw one of its players exit, with 108th seed Kilian Ort suffering an unfortunate seventh game loss to Hungary’s Bence Majoros (45th) – an admirable effort by Ort despite the defeat.
Wednesday 21st September: Men’s Singles – Qualification Groups
Wednesday 21st September: Men’s Singles – Preliminary Round