18 Oct 2016

Top seeds in the Mixed Doubles event at the Liebherr 2016 European Championships in Budapest, Hungary; the tournament commencing on Tuesday 18th October but if Serbia’s Aleksandar Karakasevic and Lithuania’s Ruta Paskauskiene are to become the undisputed greatest Mixed Doubles pairing of all time in the prestigious event, it would seem that this is their last chance.

Each has indicated that this is their swansong; their last major event. Aleksandar Karakasevic is 40 years old, Ruta Paskauskiene is one year younger.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Together, they have won the European Mixed Doubles title on four previous occasions, the same number as Stanislav Gomozkov and Zoja Rudnova when some 40 years ago representing the Soviet Union.

The lethal backhand of Stanislav Gomozkov combined with the pen-hold grip skills of Zoja Rudnova combined to win the event in four consecutive editions. Both right handers, in an age when the tournament was held in alternate years to the World Championships; they won in Lyon in 1968, in Moscow in 1970 before succeeding two years later in Rotterdam in 1972 and in Novi Sad in 1974.

“Our partnership is very long. We won first European gold in 2000 in Bremen. A year later we were second in Zagreb, before we clinched the gold in Denmark and Belgrade. After that we won gold and silver at the separate Mixed Doubles Championships”, Aleksandar Karakasevic

Meanwhile, for Aleksandar Karakasevic and Lithuania’s Ruta Paskauskiene; it has been a somewhat different technical combination that has reaped rewards.

In the past two decades, Aleksandar Karakasevic has become noted for his deft skills, his supple wrist; in doubles he is the architect, he is the player who creates the opportunity for his partner. Consistent, Ruta Paskauskiene is the player to seize the chances created.

“We have been playing for so long together. We know each other very well and we do not have to put any extra effort to adjust our game. We had a long break, because Karakasevic was injured. Last year at the World Championships we finally teamed up, but I was not very happy how we played. Now, this is our Championships, I expect it will be better.” Ruta Pakauskiene

Winners four times but over a much greater period than Stanislav Gomozkov and Zoja Rudnova; they won for the first time in Bremen in 2000; later they succeeded in 2005 in Aarhus and two years later in 2009 when the event was held as separate entity in 2009 in Subotica and not in Stuttgart where later in the year the main event was staged.

Undoubtedly, the record of Aleksandar Karakasevic and Ruta Paskauskiene stands the test of time but could it have been even better?

The most recent staging of the European Mixed Doubles event was when held in 2013 in Buzau; only team events were staged in Lisbon in 2014 and no Mixed Doubles competition was held last year in Ekaterinburg.

“Today, I am four days away from my final match for the national team. I want to leave Budapest with the medal. I play good in singles, but my chances are in Mixed Doubles and Men’s Doubles with Bojan Tokic and Ruta, we already proved we can win a medal. I am optimist we can do it again”, Aleksandar Karakasevic

Equally, could their record of success have been even greater had they been allowed to compete as a pairing at the World Championships?

They came to prominence when the regulation was invoked that pairs must consist of players from the same national association; now with the regulation relaxed, they were able to compete as a partnership at the Qoros 2015 World Championships.

“For a first time I am without my coach, mother, here. She told me I have to bring medal home. I think it is time to say Goodbye. I know I have told you that last year, but now it is the time for my retirement. Never, say never but now I am close.” Ruta Paskauskiene

Alas fortune did not smile; they experienced an opening round defeat at the hands of China’s Yan An and Wu Yang, a tough draw to say the least.

In Budapest they will be hoping that the sun shines before it sets for the last time.

Liebherr 2016 European Championships: Watch live on Laola 1.TV

Liebherr EC Aleksandar Karakasevic Ruta Paskauskiene