20 Nov 2016

Need a hero, on the morning of the penultimate day of play, Saturday 19th November, at the 2016 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open in Stockholm, Mattias Karlsson was the host nation’s hero; later in the evening session of play he became the super hero.

Quite simply he was in the zone.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

The no.16 seed, in the third round of the Men’s Singles event he had caused a major upset by beating Japan’s Koki Niwa, the no.5 seed (6-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-7, 11-2); at the quarter-final stage he withstood a brave challenge by Denmark’s Jonathan Groth, the no.11 seed, to emerge victorious.

Jonathan Groth, seemingly down and out after the first three games, won a close fourth by the minimal two point margin, before securing the next two to force a decider. An epic recovery beckoned but it was not to be the scenario; Mattias Karlsson kept mind, body and soul together to emerge successful (11-2, 11-6, 11-5, 9-11, 5-11, 7-11, 11-9).

“I have never seen any Swede play this good during my three years as a coach. He did everything right”, Marcus Sjöberg, coach

Success against expectations for Mattias Karlsson but perhaps the result was not the surprise the seeding suggested. The two had met on six previous occasions with the balance being very much in favour of the Swede; he had won four of the contests.

At the 2009 ITTF World Tour English Open, he had prevailed in the Under 21 Men’s Singles event, before in 2010 at the North European Championships, succeeding in both the Men’s Team and Men’s Singles competitions. More recently, just over one year ago at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Austrian Open, he had also enjoyed Men’s Singles success.

Wins for Mattias Karlsson but most pertinently, after emerging the winner in the Under 21 Men’s Singles event GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Austrian Open, Jonathan Groth had won their most recent meeting and he had won on Swedish soil. He beat Mattias Karlsson earlier this year at the ITTF-European Olympic Games Qualification tournament staged in Halmstad.

“In the first three games I could do anything. It didn’t matter what he did I just killed the point. The best I ever played. Later, he played a shot behind the back, it gave him the chance to come back and then he played really well. I think he might have been a bit nervous at the start but I felt great and with the home crowd behind me the feeling was fantastic; this is my best performance ever in singles, I have never been in the semi-finals at a World Tour tournament so to be able to do that at home is unbelievable”, Mattias Karlsson

The behind the back shot from a nonchalant Jonathan Groth

A result contrary to seeding and there was one more; in the contest that concluded proceedings, Japan’s Kenta Matsudaira, the no.13 seed and the winner the previous week in Austria, beat Portugal’s Marcos Freitas, the no.2 seed (9-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-5, 12-10).

Listed at no.19 on the ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles Standings (225 points), a top 15 finish, a requirement to compete in the Seamaster, Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in Doha next month, is for Marcos Freitas in severe jeopardy.

Two upsets, in the two remaining quarter-final contests it was as per seeding.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov, the top seed, beat England’s Liam Pitchford, the no.20 seed (14-12, 11-6, 7-11, 11-3, 16-14) and thus repeated the one earlier success of just over one year ago at the Liebherr 2015 European Championships in Ekaterinburg. Equally imposingly on that occasion, just as in Stockholm, Dimitrij Ovtcharov had emerged successful in five games (4-11, 11-7, 11-8, 6-11, 11-3, 11-4).

Impressive from Dimitrij Ovtcharov, it was the same from Japan’s Yuya Oshima, the no.15 seed, he ended to progress of Frenchman Stéphane Ouaiche, the no.29 seed (11-6, 11-5, 11-9, 11-7).

At the semi-final stage Dimitrij Ovtcharov meets Mattias Karlsson, Kenta Matsudaira opposes colleague Yuya Oshima.

World Tour Swedish Open Dimitrij Ovtcharov Jonathan Groth Yuya Oshima Mattias Karlsson Kenta Matsudaira

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