03 May 2017

Wednesday 3rd May marked the final day of qualification matches ahead of the 2017 ITTF Challenge Zagreb Open, with players battling it out for a chance to reach the main draw of the singles and doubles competitions, and in particular spectators were treated to a fantastic conclusion to the Men's Singles qualifying stage as five encounters in the preliminary play-off round went right down to the wire.

by Simon Daish

One of the standout matches of the day turned out to be the Preliminary Round of 32 encounter between Korea Republic’s Cho Daeseong and Takuto Izumo of Japan.

With the victor claiming a spot in the Men’s Singles main draw there was plenty to play for, and in a rather topsy-turvy match Takuto Izumo looked set to qualify after he established a commanding lead in the tie following the conclusion of the opening four games.

However, with game five going to Cho Daeseong by a five point margin and the following two ends also going in the Korean player’s favour in deuce, the match was completely turned on its head as Cho progressed through to the main draw (9-11, 11-3, 9-11, 11-13, 11-6, 12-10, 12-10).

Another contestant to achieve a similar result was Hungarian competitor Nandor Ecseki, who recovered from a 1-3 games deficit to defeat the host nation’s Frane Kojic by a 4-3 scoreline (11-13, 11-9, 9-11, 2-11, 11-5, 11-8, 13-11).

Sweden’s Viktor Brodd, Chile’s Felipe Olivares and Simon Pfeffer of Austria also prevailed in the deciding game in their respective encounters to join Cho Daeseong and Nandor Ecseki in the main competition.

The Women’s Singles main draw will feature 10 Russian representatives, after six of the country’s players successfully qualified from the qualifying group stage.

Olga Vorobeva put in another confident display in her second Group 4 match as the Russian competitor saw off Nadezhda Bogdanova of Belarus (12-10, 11-4, 11-8, 12-10) to seal top spot in the group, while over in Group 6 Olga Kulikova came through her tie against India’s Pooja Sahasrabudhe across six games (5-11, 11-8, 11-8, 12-10, 6-11, 11-9) to book her place in the main draw.

Yet, one Russian player was forced to negotiate a difficult task in Group 30 as Valeria Shcherbatykh held off the challenge of Ankita Das of India with the former of the two athletes coming out on top in dramatic style (11-6, 3-11, 11-8, 12-10, 6-11, 3-11, 11-8).

Italy will also be represented in the main event after two of its players qualified from the group stage.

Victories over Klaudia Kusinska (6-11, 11-7, 13-15, 11-6, 11-7, 11-7) and Ekaterina Guseva (9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8, 3-11, 11-9) respectively sent Italy’s Giorgia Piccolin and Debora Vivarelli through to the next round of the competition.

Alongside the singles events there was also qualifying action from the Men’s Doubles and Women’s Doubles categories, and two matches in particular produced standout results.

Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna and Finland’s Benedek Oláh rescued themselves from an early elimination as the mixed nationality partnership defeated the Czech Republic’s Michal Obeslo and Pavel Sirucek in the Men’s Doubles Preliminary Round of 16 (10-12, 6-11, 11-4, 14-12, 13-11), while the successful capture of a crucial third game proved vital to seeing the French duo of Laura Gasnier and Stéphanie Loeuillette (6-11, 9-11, 17-15, 11-9, 11-8) achieve qualification.

Challenge Series 2017 Zagreb (Croatia) Open Quadri Aruna Cho Daeseong Benedek Olah Nandor Ecseki Laura Gasnier Valeria Shcherbatykh Olga Vorobeva Stéphanie Loeuillette

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