by Simon Daish
The Women’s Singles draw was filled with upsets on the opening day of the 2017 Belarus Open, as the battle to reach the last 16 commenced.
One of the standout results came from Japan’s Takako Nagao, who defied the odds to beat the no.15 seed Adriana Diaz of Puerto Rico across five games (11-6, 11-9, 10-12, 11-7, 11-8).
However, arguably the upset of the Round of 32 came from the unseeded Russian competitor Olga Kulikova following her success against the third seed Misaki Morizono (11-7, 8-11, 5-11, 11-7, 5-11, 11-8, 11-9) in a spectacular encounter.
Viktoria Pavlovich is the sole remaining Belarusian player in the Women’s Singles competition after Daria Trigolos and Alina Nikitchanka were both eliminated from the event, but over in the Men’s Singles category two of the host nation’s athletes had reasons to celebrate.
Top seed Vladimir Samsonov is aiming to lift the Belarus Open trophy for the third occasion and he is still on course to complete that object, after the 40-year-old table tennis legend overcame Spain’s Guillermo Martinez (11-4, 11-9, 11-8, 11-7) and Poland’s Tomasz Lewandowski (11-3, 15-13, 11-2, 11-2) on his way to reaching the Round of 16.
Joining Vladimir Samsonov in the last 16 is another player representing Belarus. Pavel Platonov is the 16th seed for the draw and so far in Minsk he is living up to that title, progressing through to Day Two’s action with victories over Naoya Onishi of Japan (11-5, 11-6, 6-11, 11-5, 11-2) and Petyo Krastev (11-9, 11-6, 11-5, 9-11, 11-7).
Elsewhere in the Round of 32, Brazilian Eric Jouti ended the hopes of the no.8 seed Mikhail Paikov (12-10, 11-5, 4-11, 11-7, 11-8) while there was a thrilling outcome for Russia’s Andrei Baibuldin, who recovered to defeat the 2012 Belarus Open champion Vasily Lakeev (7-11, 8-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-6).
The sixth seeded pairing of Yuto Kizukuri and Masaki Takami are through to the semi-finals of the Men’s Doubles tournament, after the Japanese duo ousted the fourth seeds Dmitrij Prokopcov of the Czech Republic and Italy’s Niagol Stoyanov in straight games (13-11, 11-7, 14-12).
Yet, surely the biggest doubles shock of the day came from Chinese Taipei’s Lin Chia-Hsuan and Lin Po-Hsuan following their outstanding performance against the Women’s Doubles top seeds Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato of Japan (11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9).
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