by Simon Daish
Daria Trigolos and Alina Nikitchanka reached the main draw following positive outings in the qualification tournament that preceded the 2017 ITTF Challenge Belgosstrakh Belarus Open, and both players were hoping to carry forward their success into the main event.
Unfortunately for the home spectators neither Daria Trigolos nor Alina Nikitchanka managed to negotiate their opening fixtures in the Round of 32, suffering straight game defeats to Poland’s Katarzyna Grzybowska-Franc (11-4, 11-8, 11-3, 11-4) and Japan’s Maki Shiomi (11-3, 12-10, 11-9, 11-7) respectively.
However, there is still one Belarusian representative remaining in the competition with Viktoria Pavlovich’s defeating Ievgeniia Vasylieva of Ukraine (9-11, 11-5, 11-9, 13-11, 11-5) to keep the host nation’s battle for the trophy alive.
“I’m always worried when playing at home, moreover, this was my first match. My opponent keeps the ball very well and seldom applies spins. Leading 2-1 in games I started losing points and had to tell myself that the game is not to be lost. It wasn’t easy at all, but I’m happy I could make it”, Viktoria Pavlovich.
Aside from Viktoria Pavlovich and Katarzyna Grzybowska-Franc, the remaining 14 contestants through to the last 16 represent either Japan or Russia.
Top seed Hitomi Sato came through her tie against Belgium’s Lisa Lung after the Japanese player raced to a powerful 4-0 scoreline (11-2, 11-6, 11-8, 12-10), and will face Marina Matsuzawa in the stage following her comeback success over Mariia Tailakova (13-15, 5-11, 11-6, 11-6, 11-6, 11-9).
Takako Nagao caused a big upset in her Round of 32 encounter, as she eliminated the no.15 seed Adriana Diaz from the tournament.
Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz has become a national hero over the past year having represented her country at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, however, the 16-year-old has failed to negotiate her opening round match at the 2017 ITTF Challenge Belgosstrakh Belarus Open after Japan’s Takako Nagao put in a strong performance to progress from the tie (11-6, 11-9, 10-12, 11-7, 11-8).
Yet, arguably the biggest scalp of the Round of 32 came courtesy of Russia’s Olga Kulikova.
Unseeded for the event, Olga Kulikova came out on top in an end-to-end battle against third seed Misaki Morizono (11-7, 8-11, 5-11, 11-7, 5-11, 11-8, 11-9) to book a meeting with fellow Russian athlete Yulia Prokhorova in the last 16.
“That’s the greatest victory in my whole career. I didn’t even expect it, I just played till the end. The Asian players are hard to beat in terms of speed, so I organized my tactics with occasional spin shifts, striving to decelerate the pace. In the seventh game, with the score being 9-5 and becoming 9-9, I managed to calm down and cleanse the mind”, Olga Kulikova.
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