by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The absence for Bastian Steger, who played a major role in Germany’s bronze medal success in the Men’s Team event in Rio de Janeiro, is a rather less period than that of Patrick Franziska; his most recent venture in October was when competing in the Liebherr 2016 Men’s World Cup in Saarbrücken.
However, whilst Patrick Franziska was no doubt more than satisfied with his runners up spot in Korea, losing in the final to compatriot Timo Boll; in Otocec, Bastian Steger has high sights set firmly on gold. He is the top seed in the Men’s Singles event.
Next in line is Poland’s Jakub Dyjas followed by German national team compatriot, Steffen Mengel and Portugal’s João Geraldo; all are players who have yet to make a major impact this year on the international stage.
It is very much the same for Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu, the no.5 seed, as it is for Noshad Alamiyan, the no.7 seed; whilst for Canada’s Eugene Wang, the player sandwiched in between, he is in similar shoes to Bastian Steger. He has not competed internationally since the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
No great impact this year; however, that is not the situation with regards to Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar, the no.8 seed. In early February he won the Men’s Singles title at the European Under 21 Championships in Sochi, before later in the month being the runner up in the same event at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open.
Close competition is anticipated; seeding may count for nought. In the Men’s Singles event in Qatar, Tomislav Pucar beat Noshad Alamiyan in the opening round; the Iranian having earlier in the qualification tournament accounted for Jakub Dyjas.
Meanwhile, to add to the equation; in the first round of the Men’s Singles event at the Seamaster 2017 India Open in New Delhi, Steffen Mengel was beaten by João Geraldo.
In Otocec there are scores to be settled.