by Simon Daish
The defending champion from Germany, Dimitrij Ovtcharov heads the Men’s Singles invitation list which is news that may not come to surprise many followers of the sport, and another German competitor you can expect to see in action is five-time champion Timo Boll after he also received an invitation for the tournament in Antibes.
Portugal’s João Monteiro was arguably the standout player at the previous Europe Top 16 competition hosted in Gondomar in 2016 when he fought his way to a second position finish. Fellow compatriots Marcos Freitas and Tiago Apolónia could also be heading to the 2017 ITTF Europe Top 16 following the appearance of their names on the unveiled list.
Other players to note who have been included in the invitation sheet are Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, Austria’s Stefan Fegerl, Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson and the 2016 European champion Emmanuel Lebesson of France.
Panagiotis Gionis and Paul Drinkhall are two of the six players who have been named as reserves for the event.
The shock outcome from the 2016 ITTF Europe Top 16 tournament was the title win in the Women’s Singles category for Spain’s Shen Yanfei, and while the 36-year-old announced her retirement from the professional side of the sport at the Seamaster 2016 Women’s World Cup she still has an opportunity to return to action if she so wishes with her name being included on the invitation list for the 2017 Europe Top 16.
Hu Melek, who represents Turkey, finished in the runners up position in the previous edition of the Europe Top 16 competition in Gondomar, but since then she has progressed to compete in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, before succeeding at the Liebherr 2016 European Championships in Budapest, Hungary.
Antibes 2017 could see Hu Melek feature after she was invited to take part, while the likes of Germany’s Petrissa Solja, Hungary’s Georgina Póta and Russia’s Polina Mikhailova have also made the list of invitations.
The three day event in Antibes will take place between Friday 3rd and Sunday 5th February 2017.