by Simon Daish
Magdalena Sikorska was involved in a close duel with Nina Mittelham of Germany in the final qualifying round, in a tie that required the full seven games distance.
Neither Magdalena Sikorska nor Nina Mittelham could be separated following the conclusion of the opening four games with both players picking up alternating game victories along the way. When the world no.103 Mittelham took game five by the two point margin, however, the match looked to be heading in the German’s favour.
However, Poland’s Sikorska wasn’t done yet: placed at no.198 in January’s ITTF World Rankings table she made a fantastic response, claiming back-to-back games to steal the victory in the seventh end (11-6, 6-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-13, 11-9, 11-6).
“It was a big battle for me. We had never played against each other and I’m really happy to win this match and make the main draw. I really liked her style as I mainly practise with boys so it suited me and I could read her serves well. These two things made a difference in the end”, Magdalena Sikorska.
Poland’s other contestant to qualify for the Women’s Singles competition was Klaudia Kusinska, after she caused a big upset with her four-two success over Canada’s Mo Zhang (12-10, 1-11, 1-11, 11-3, 11-7, 11-5).
Magdalena Sikorska and Klaudia Kusinska may have both registered unexpected triumphs against higher ranked opposition, but there were yet more shocks still to come in the Preliminary Round of 32 as Judith Liu and Alina Arlouskaya put in stunning performances in front of the Budapest crowd.
French player Judith Liu, who is unranked in January’s ITTF World Rankings table, entered her match against the world no.89 Yulia Prokhorova of Russia with the odds stacked against her. To the amazement of the spectators, however, Judith Liu recovered from 1-3 down to eliminate the Russian by a 4-3 scoreline (5-11, 7-11, 11-4, 7-11, 12-10, 11-5, 11-5) to book a tie with fourth seed Zhou Yihan in the main draw.
The other big story of the round came from the match between Barbora Balazova and Alina Arlouskaya: the world no.70 from the Slovak Republic suffered a surprise defeat to the Belarus player ranked 87 places below her in the ITTF World Rankings.
Never before on the international stage had Arlouskaya managed to get the better of Balazova, but that record would soon be corrected in Budapest after the Belarusian player powered her way to a 4-2 win over Balazova (11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 3-11, 11-7).
“I am so happy to qualify for the main draw. I cannot even put into words at the moment. I’ve never beaten her in my life before and we played many times before when we were juniors. I thought it’s time for revenge so I adapted my active style of defensive play with lots of variations on the spin and whenever I could attack I did”, said a tearful Alina Arlouskaya after the match.