08 May 2017

Four titles, Ukraine emerged as the most successful nation on duty in the Men’s Singles events on Sunday 7th May at the 2017 Thermana Lasko 14th Slovenia Para Open.

According to status, Viktor Didukh was Class 8 but the success recorded by Oleksandr Yezyk in Class 2, Vasyl Petruniv in Class 3 and Maksym Nikolenko in Class 7 were contrary to expectations.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Oleksandr Yezyk, not listed amongst the leading names, accounted for Frenchman Vincent Boury at the final hurdle (11-9, 11-5, 11-2) to secure the top prize. Notably earlier at the quarter-final stage he had ousted top seed, Poland’s Rafal Czuper (11-8, 11-5, 11-7), prior to recording a penultimate round success in opposition to Stéphane Molliens, like Vincent Boury from France (13-11, 3-11, 11-6, 12-10).

Similarly, Vasyl Petruniv ended French hopes; at the semi-final stage he beat Florian Merrien, the top seed (11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 8-11, 11-7), before accounting for Jordan’s Osama Abu Jame (11-7, 11-5, 11-8) to arrest the top prize.

Good form from Vasyl Petruniv, it was the same from Maksym Nikolenko, the no.2 seed in Class 7. In all Ukrainian final he overcame Mykhaylo Popov, the no.3 seed (4-11, 10-12, 11-7, 11-8, 11-7) and a player very much in form. In the penultimate round he had beaten Great Britain’s Will Bayley, the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games gold medallist and top seed (11-7, 9-11, 11-6, 10-12, 11-9).

British hopes quashed at the hands of Ukraine, it was the same in Class 8 but as anticipated. Viktor Didukh, the top seed, beat Aaron McKibbin (11-9, 11-9, 11-5), a young man who had exceeded expectations to reach the final; notably at the semi-final stage he had ousted Belgium’s Matthew Loïq (10-12, 7-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-9), the quarter-final winner in opposition to Hungary’s Andras Csonka, the no.2 seed and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games silver medallist (11-8, 11-8, 5-11, 11-9).

“I came in with more of a game plan this time. I played Didukh in Italy and played really well and got destroyed. This time I didn’t play as well but tactically I was a lot better and I could feel that he was a bit nervous because I’ve shown some good form in the singles here. I can’t be disappointed, I’ve reached the final and it is something to build on. Loïcq had good wins here and beat Csonka who was the silver medallist in Rio, so he is in good form. I’ve had a few five game matches at this tournament and felt in control the whole way through, even when I was two-nil down in the semis I believed in myself that I could do it so I was happy to get the result.” Aaron McKibbin

A most encouraging performance from Aaron McKibbin on what was a day of mixed fortunes for Great Britain; in addition to the reverse experienced by Will Bayley, fellow Rio 2016 Paralympic Games gold medallist, Rob Davies experienced defeat.

The top seed, he was beaten in the Class 2 final by Italy’s Andrea Borgato (11-9, 11-1, 12-10).

“He played really well to be fair. He had really good touch and I wasn’t really at the races; that was the difference at the end of the day. I wasn’t that confident coming here so I’m more than happy with getting to the final. Disappointed with the final match but I know I am going to come back stronger ready for my next competition in Germany. My main target is the Europeans in September, so that is what I am heading for and that is where I want to be winning the tournament.” Rob Davies

Surprise outcomes and there were two more but relatively mild when compared with the efforts of Andrea Borgato, who was not amongst the very top names. Furthermore, the arguable surprise winners were both London 2012 Paralympic Games gold medallists and started play in Lasko as the no.2 seeds.

Norway’s Tommy Urhuag beat Nicolas Savant-Aira in the final of Class 6 (11-9, 11-8, 11-8), the Frenchman having ousted Serbia’s Mitar Palikuca, the top seed, one round earlier (10-12, 11-8, 11-4, 11-8).

Meanwhile in Class 11, Hungary’s Peter Palos beat his successor; in the title deciding contest he overcame the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games gold medallist and top seed, Florian Van Acker (11-5, 12-10, 4-11, 11-4).

Success for Ukraine and surprise outcomes; in the remaining events it was success for the favourites, the top seeds.

Turkey’s Abdullah Ozturk won Class 4, Spain’s Alvaro Valera emerged as the Class 6 champion; whilst Russia’s Iurii Nozdrunov struck gold in Class 9 and Poland’s Patrick Chojnowski secured the top step of the podium in Class 10.

Play in the individual events concluded, attention now turns to the team competitions; play concludes on Tuesday 9th May.

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Photos: Urban Urbanc/Sportida

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