12 Jan 2017

Pivotal to Germany’s bronze medal success in the Men’s Team event at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympic Games; injury has forced Bastian Steger to withdraw from the forthcoming 2017 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup to be staged in Antibes, France from Friday 3rd to Sunday 5th February.

He is replaced by Panagiotis Gionis, a player whose stout defence combined with a lethal forehand topspin delights crowds wherever he extols his art; also judging by his previous appearances in the competition, he will keep ardent spectators on the very edges of their seats.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Listed at no.35 on the current Men’s World Rankings, Panagiotis Gionis, who celebrated his 37th birthday on Saturday 7th January, will be making his fourth presence; in fact his fourth in consecutive years.

In all three previous excursions, a quarter-final place has been determined by the very narrowest of margins.

The greatest disappointment was one year ago in Gondomar. He beat the host nation’s João Monteiro (6-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-5, 13-11) but then lost to Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov (11-6, 11-4, 11-7) and Frenchman Simon Gauzy (11-6, 11-7, 11-7). Conversely, João Monteiro recovered to beat Simon Gauzy (11-6, 11-8, 8-11, 11-13, 11-6) and Dimitrij Ovtcharov (11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 9-11, 11-9); whilst earlier Dimitrij Ovtcharov had accounted for Simon Gauzy (11-8, 11-4, 14-12).

Two wins for João Monteiro and Dimitrij Ovtcharov secured last eight places; for Panagiotis Gionis, defeat at the hands of Simon Gauzy, also with just one win, meant fourth place.

However, on his first two appearances, it was better news, a place in the main draw being secured but in both instances he only gained the last eight spot on games ratio!

At the DHS 2014 Europe Cup in Lausanne when 12 players, as opposed to 16, competed; he finished in first place in his group ahead of Russia’s Alexander Shibaev and Romania’s Adrian Crisan.

He beat Adrian Crisan in four games (13-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-5) but in a full distance duel lost to Alexander Shibaev (5-11, 11-5, 15-13, 6-11, 11-4); in the opening contest Adrian Crisan had overcome Alexander Shibaev in five games (11-7, 8-11, 11-9, 10-12, 11-7). Thus on games ratio, Panagiotis Gionis (5:4) finished ahead of Alexander Shibaev (5:5) and Adrian Crisan (4:5).

First place in the group but it was to be a seventh place finished; he was beaten by Denmark’s Michael Maze (11-5, 11-5, 11-3, 7-11, 13-11), against Germany’s Timo Boll he conceded before overcoming Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia (11-4, 8-11, 11-9, 8-11, 3-11, 13-11).

Arguably somewhat disappointing finishes in his first and most recent efforts; not in his second; at the 2015 NN Table Tennis Club ITTF Europe Top 16, he finished in a highly creditable third spot.

A good finish but not the best of starts; in his opening contest he was beaten by João Monteiro in four games (5-11, 11-7, 11-7, 13-11). Pertinently, he recovered to overcome Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus in three straight games (12-10, 11-7, 11-9), who in the concluding match in the group defeated João Monteiro in four games (11-7, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9).

First place was the lot for Panagiotis Gionis (4:3), with João Monteiro in second spot (4:4) and Vladimir Samsonov third (3:4).

Progress to the last eight, Panagiotis Gionis once again beat Tiago Apolonia (2-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-9, before losing to Dimitrij Ovtcharov in the semi-finals (12-10, 6-11, 16-14, 4-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-4).

Defeat in seven games, in the bronze medal match it was victory in seven games, he beat Simon Gauzy (5-11, 11-7, 4-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-8, 11-1).

Hard fought exciting contests, in Antibes when Panagiotis Gionis plays expect excitement, expect value for money.

2017 ITTF-Europe Top 16 Cup: Confirmed entries (Thursday 12th January)

Europe Top 16 Panagiotis Gionis Bastian Steger

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