by Simon Daish
The early pace set in qualifying group 22 was established by Russia’s Maria Malanina who saw off Dutch opponent Tanja Helle by a 4-0 scoreline in the opening set of group stage matches. Unfortunately for Helle, another straight games defeat was on the horizon in the evening session as Adina Diaconu put two group points on the board.
Helle gave a good account of herself for the majority of her match against Diaconu and was able to force deuce in the second end but it was the player from Romania who triumphed (11-8, 12-10, 11-7, 11-5), setting up an exciting finale with Malanina which will decide who tops the group.
Group 19 saw a confident display from another Romanian contestant as Irina Ciobanu came through her tie against Greece’s Georgia Zavitsanou (9-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-6, 11-0), recovering from a game down before going on to claim four consecutive games.
Camelia Iacob and Andreea Dragoman were the other players representing Romania to register victories with Iacob inflicting defeat on the host nation’s Orsolya Feher (11-4, 11-8, 11-8, 11-8) and Dragoman proving too strong for Germany’s Vivien Scholz (11-3, 11-1, 11-4, 11-7) to round off a terrific evening of Table Tennis for the Romanian competitors.
One of the biggest upsets of the second set of qualifying group matches came in group 12, as Austria’s Karoline Mischek defied the odds to overcome Hungary’s Szandra Pergel in a seven game thriller.
Mischek went into the evening tie having lost out in the seventh end to Yana Timina of the Netherlands earlier in the day, and the Austrian competitor would endure another seven games affair in her second group stage match but this time she would come out of the tie smiling as the world no.331 beat the world no.96 Pergel to stun the home crowd in Budapest (8-11, 6-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-13, 11-9, 11-5).
“I started the game thinking that I want to do my best and take the match point by point. During the game we built on our tactics as we felt my opponent was getting nervous. I am very very happy and relived”, Karoline Mischek.
Elsewhere there were positive qualifying group starts for some of the other higher ranked contestants with Yana Noskova, Dina Meshref and Alex Galic all picking up important wins to kickstart their campaigns at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open.
Russia’s Noskova impressed against Anelia Lupulesku of Serbia (11-4, 11-4, 11-5, 11-7) to move into top spot in group five, while Egypt’s Meshref saw off Finnish player Anna Kirichenko in straight games in her qualifying group (11-4, 11-6, 11-9, 11-7).
However, Galic was subject to a much tighter encounter with Hungary’s Edina Toth putting in a fine performance and despite the Slovenian falling 2-3 behind to the home nation’s player the capture of the following two games narrowly gave Galic the edge (11-7, 13-15, 4-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-4, 11-9).