by Wade Townsend
Big names clash
No.1 seed Timo Boll is up against Egypt’s Omar Assar in the first round of the Men’s Sinlges. It’s a big opportunity for Assar and Boll won’t be underestimating his opponent who will surely come out swinging. It’s going to be power versus spin when they take the court. Is it time for the young challenger to usurp the throne?
France’s Simon Gauzy and Japan’s Jin Ueda could prove to be one of the most closely fought contests of the day. Their style of play should complement it each other and will definitely provide the audience with some spectacular rallies. Both have had some deep runs at World Tour events this year, but today one will be cut short.
Meanwhile, Hugo Calderano will want to be wary of China’s unranked Li Yijie. There is a handful of wildcard players from China in the event and no one will know exactly what to expect from the relative newcomers.
Japan dominates Women’s draw
In the Women’s Singles Japan dominates the draw with 13 players in action in the last 32. With only three of the first round encounters not containing a player from Japan, there is a lot of pressure to stop the nation’s domination of the event in the first round.
But Japan will be looking for a whitewash. Kasumi Ishikawa leads the charge as the no.1 seed. She is up against Viktoria Pavlovich from Belarus. The pair have faced off only once before and that was six years ago. Ishikawa won then 4-1, but is known to occasionally struggle against defensive players. Could the Belorussian catch the No.1 seed cold in the opening round?
In one of the few encounters without Japan, Matilda Ekholm, the No.12 seed, is up against world No.122 Nina Mittelham. The German is fresh off the back of making the final of the Under 21 Women’s Singles, so has well and truly found her groove in Olomouc. It would be a big upset, but it’s definitely a match to watch out for.
Doubles without borders
In the Men’s Doubles No.2 seeds Jin Ueda and Maharu Yoshimura will have their work cut out for them in the opening round. They face off against Austria’s Robert Gardos and Daniel Habesohn. It’s a match that could very well have been the final if the draw fell differently. But the crowd certainly won’t be complaining on having such a big match to kick the day off with. An eye should also be kept on the mixed nation pairing of Hugo Calderano and Simon Gauzy. Both bring a special flair to their table tennis that could combine for some spectacular shot making.
In the Women’s Doubles once again it is Japan leading the charge with Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato sitting at the top of the draw. But waiting for them in the bottom half is the No.2 seed Georgina Pota and Matilda Ekholm. Once again it is a mixed nation pairing that could look to steal the show in Olomouc. And although it may sound like a broken record, don’t underestimate the unseeded pair from China of Gu Ruochen and Zhang Zhao.