by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Liang Jingkun completed his group phase contests with victory over Sweden’s Hampus Soderlund (11-4, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-5); Shang Kun defeated the Czech Republic’s Tomas Tregler (11-9, 11-6, 11-7, 11-4) whilst Yan An proved too quick for Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador (11-5, 11-6, 11-6, 11-7).
A place in the preliminary round a common factor and, in addition to being members of the same national team, there is one other element that binds them together.
All, in major competitions, have wins over their compatriot Fan Zhendong, the player presently listed at no.2 on the Men’s World Ranking. Yan An beat Fan Zhendong in the final of the Men’s Singles event at the GAC Group 2013 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open; in consecutive weeks in the recent 2016 Chinese Men’s Super League, Liang Jingkun and Shang Kun both emerged victorious.
Such is the pedigree of the trio; tough opponents in a qualifying competition!
Success in style and there was also success for two former ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open Men’s Singles champions; both beat Italian adversaries, one relatively comfortably, the other by the very narrowest of margins.
Austria’s Daniel Habesohn, the winner when the tournament was held in Szombathely in 2014, overcame Antonino Amato (11-5, 7-11, 11-2, 12-10, 11-8); Hong Kong’s Jiang Tianyi, the winner one year later, defeated Matteo Mutti in a tension packed duel (10-12, 10-12, 11-4, 11-5, 11-7, 9-11, 12-10).
Wins as anticipated but, as the second series of matches in the group phase of affairs concluded, there were two upsets; the Slovak Republic being the cause.
Erik Illas, who earlier in the day had been beaten in his opening group stage match by Singapore’s Clarence Chew (12-10, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9), accounted for Croatia’s Frane Kojic (10-12, 12-10, 11-8, 11-9, 8-11, 7-11, 11-5); Jakub Figel who lost to Frenchman Andrea Landrieu (11-4, 12-10, 11-9, 11-9), defeated Nigeria’s Bode Abiodun (11-9, 11-8, 11-6, 11-7).
Currently neither Erik Illas nor Jakub Figel possesses a World ranking; Frane Kojic is listed at no.167, Bode Abiodun at no.188.