14 Sep 2017

France is attempting to reach its first team final at continental level for 19 years and the team has made a positive start to the Men's Championship Division at the Liebherr 2017 ITTF-European Championships, claiming a 3-1 win against Poland in its opening group match on Wednesday 13th September at the d'Coque Arena in Luxembourg.

by Simon Daish

Simon Gauzy gave the French side an early confidence boost following his straight games win against Jakub Dyjas in the opener (11-8, 11-4, 12-10), but that advantage was soon cancelled out as the European Men’s Singles champion Emmanuel Lebesson suffered a disappointing result against Wang Zengyi (11-6, 9-11, 8-11, 7-11).

Title hopefuls France needed a quick response and that is exactly what Tristan Flore provided for the team with Polish opponent Robert Floras proving unable to capitalise on his early lead (8-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-5), and a great recovery effort from Emmanuel Lebesson against Jakub Dyjas (6-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-7) completed the win.

“We are a team which you have to beat. It will be difficult for everyone to win against us, but also for us every game is a challenge. We are still a young team… First place is very important for us, to not fall against big teams like Germany and Portugal in the quarter-finals”, Simon Gauzy.

The other country sitting on two points in Group D is Ukraine following the team’s successful outcome against Romania.

Ovidiu Ionescu gave the Romanian side something to cheer about after he came through his tie against Viktor Yefimov (7-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-7), but it was the Ukrainian competitors who were celebrating following the conclusion of the match.

Kou Lei emerged triumphant in both of his encounters against Hunor Szocs (13-11, 11-8, 11-4) and Ovidiu Ionescu (11-6, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5), while Yevhen Pryshchepa saw off Adrian Crisan across four games (11-9, 12-10, 4-11, 14-12).

Despite Luxembourg’s best efforts the crowd witnessed a defeat for the host nation as Greece raced to a 3-0 victory.

Panagiotis Gionis got Greece off to a winning start in the tie as the experienced defender frustrated home contestant Gilles Michely (11-5, 12-14, 11-7, 11-9), before Konstantinos Papageorgiou and Anastasios Riniotis negotiated their fixtures against Eric Glod (11-8, 12-10, 11-3) and Luka Mladenovic (11-9, 11-3, 11-4) to draw the match to a close.

“My first match was difficult because it was my starter in the European Championships and I didn’t know the hall. I played against Gilles Michelly. I know his style well because we have played many times in the past. He is a very good technical player. So I had to be focused on his serves. I tried to attack against him. In the end of the third game I found my rhythm and I was able to concentrate more so I could overcome him”, Panagiotis Gionis.

The other Group D fixture saw Anton Kallberg, Kristian Karlsson and Mattias Karlsson all register victories as Sweden beat Russia by three matches to nil.

“My team played very well and they gave me a good opportunity because we had a 2-0 lead in the score when my match started. Even so I was tense before my match started because Russian players are strong…  I am very glad that we beat Russia 3-0!”, Mattias Karlsson.

There was a first Group F win in the Men’s Challenge Division for Switzerland with Lionel Weber’s brace leading the team to a 3-1 triumph over Bulgaria.

Turkey picked up its second consecutive win with a strong performance against the Czech Republic, while Finland came through its encounter against Estonia.

Liebherr 2017 European Championships Simon Gauzy Panagiotis Gionis Mattias Karlsson Kou Lei

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Day 5 - Liebherr 2017 ITTF-European Team Championships