by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The month of February was not kind to Andrej Gacina, for his colleague, Tomislav Pucar, the no.14 seed in Zagreb and the one further Croatian to receive a direct entry to the main draw, the month was much more benevolent.
In the first week of the month he won the Men’s Singles title at the inaugural European Under 21 Championships in Sochi; then two weeks later he shone in Doha at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open.
After negotiating the qualification stage of the Men’s Singles event, he beat Iran’s Noshad Alamiyan before losing to Portugal’s Marcos Freitas in a full seven games contest. Additionally, he reached the final of the Under 21 Men’s Singles event where aspirations were halted by Hong Kong’s Lam Siu Hang.
Impressive performances; the overall result has been a climb of 50 places on the Men’s World Rankings. In December 2016 he stood at no.122; when the listings for April were announced he had risen to no.72, the highest position of his career.
Amongst the top names of which Denmark’s Jonathan Groth, Sweden’s Pär Gerell, Portugal’s João Monteiro and England’s Liam Pitchford complete the top eight, none this year have quite matched the impact made by Tomislav Pucar.
Quadri Aruna on his one and only previous international outing of the year reached the semi-final stage of the Men’s Singles event at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open in Budapest; he was beaten by the German defender, Ruwen Filus.
Notably, Kou Lei finished in fourth place in Antibes at the ITTF Europe Top 16, a tournament in which Panagiotis Gionis, Jonathan Groth and João Monteiro did not progress beyond the initial stage.
Somewhat similarly, on the ITTF World Tour, Pär Gerell did not advance beyond the qualification stage in Qatar, whilst earlier in the year in Hungary, Liam Pitchford progressed to round one but was forced to withdraw through injury at the end of the third game against China’s Zhou Yu.
Seeking better fortunes; it is the same in the Men’s Doubles event. Last week in Slovenia, Hungary’s Nandor Ecseki and Adam Szudi were the runners up. In Zagreb they are the top seeds, ahead of India’s Arjun Ghosh and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran; Russia’s Kirill Skachkov and Grigory Vlasov are the next in line followed by Iran’s Nima Alamian and Noshad Alamiyan.
However, there is just one problem for the leading pairs and for that matter for all other partnerships; the names of Korea’s Choi Wonjin and Lee Jungwoo appear on the entry list, the winners in Slovenia, dangerous floaters!