by Simon Daish
French Table Tennis fans will be rejoicing following day six’s action in Budapest, after two of their representatives took the top two medals in the Men’s Singles tournament.
Emmanuel Lebesson and Simon Gauzy were the French players mentioned above, and with successful outcomes for them in the last four, where they overcame Jakub Dyjas (POL) and Timo Boll (GER) respectively, the first all-French European Championships final awaited the sixth (Gauzy) and 16th (Lebesson) seeds.
The start of the final was tightly contested as neither player was able to open up any form of substantial lead over the other, and it took a victory in deuce for Lebesson to claim game one and subsequently a 1-0 lead. Then Gauzy looked to have set up an exciting battle for the trophy when he levelled the match at one game apiece with his win in the second end.
Yet, unfortunately for the spectators the dream of witnessing an end-to-end final never came to fruition. Lebesson won three consecutive games with little trouble to become only the second Frenchman to ever claim the Men’s Singles title at a European Championships, joining only Jacques Secretin (champion in 1976) on the list of previous winners.
“At the end of the opening game I managed to win only one point on my service. Only God helped me win that game. Later Simon (Gauzy) recovered, but I raised my game to a higher level; from the third game I played the best table tennis of my life. It was an incredible match.” – Emmanuel Lebesson (France).
Rather astonishingly this was the first occasion that Emmanuel Lebesson and Simon Gauzy had ever faced each on the international stage, but their first meeting proved a significant one as Lebesson and Gauzy announced to the world that they are ready to challenge the sport’s very best moving forward.
Day six began with both of last year’s finalists Elizabeta Samara (ROU) and Li Jie (NED) still in the draw. However, neither Samara nor Li would go on to make it back-to-back appearances in the final as they suffered last four exits to Yu Fu (POR) and Hu Melek (TUR) to put the latter two players up against one another for the chance of taking the glory.
With Hu Melek meeting Yu Fu in the final, the category was guaranteed to see a new European champion crowned regardless of the result, and it didn’t take too long to see who would win the gold medal as Hu stormed to a commanding 4-1 victory.
The opening two games saw Hu make a flying start out of the blocks, conceding just five points; Hu didn’t show any signs of slowing down in the third end either and before long the Turkish competitor was leading Yu 3-0.
Something had to change for Yu-she risked a potential clean sweep loss, and she managed to pull a game back- could there be yet more drama to unfold before the conclusion of the tie? The answer was no, it wasn’t to be for the ninth seed as Hu (sixth) took the following game to bring the Women’s Singles competition to a halt (11-3, 11-2, 11-4, 10-12, 11-7).
“I am happy the way I played today. I am not afraid any more of the pen-holders. I was very confident and I had a good feeling for the ball.” – Hu Melek (Turkey).
There were just the two Doubles categories to be decided on the final day of the competition in Budapest, with the Mixed Doubles event having already been won on the previous day by Joao Monteiro (POR) and Daniela Monteiro-Dodean (ROU).
Patrick Franziska (GER) teamed up with 2010 finalist Jonathan Groth (DEN) to capture the Men’s Doubles title; Franziska and Groth picked up a 4-2 win over Poland’s Jakub Dyjas and Daniel Gorak in the final. The bronze medals went to Swedish pair Kristian Karlsson and Mattias Karlsson, and Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia and Joao Geraldo.
One piece of business had already been assured for the Women’s Doubles tournament prior to day six, and that was that the 2016 champions would be a German partnership with the country’s players taking the only available places on offer for the final.
Kristin Silbereisen and Sabine Winter emerged as victors, but only after seven grueling games against fellow compatriots Shan Xiaona and Petrissa Solja had been played out in the final (12-10, 8-11, 11-8, 11-8, 2-11, 7-11, 11-9). The result gives Silbereisen her first Women’s Doubles gold, while for Winter it’s her second title in the category having won with then partner Solja in 2013.
Hungary’s only medal came in the Women’s Doubles as the host nation’s Dora Madarasz and Szandra Pergel finished in the bronze medal position, alongside Romania’s Elizabeta Samara and Daneila Monteiro-Dodean.
Sunday 23rd October: Women’s Singles – Main Draw
Sunday 23rd October: Men’s Singles – Main Draw
Sunday 23rd October: Men’s Doubles – Main Draw
Sunday 23rd October: Women’s Doubles – Main Draw