16 Sep 2017

Spectators at the Liebherr 2017 ITTF-European Championships witnessed a real treat in the first Men's Championship Division semi-final as Portugal and France fought it out in an exciting battle on Saturday 16th September for a spot in the final.

by Simon Daish

France was attempting to reach its first final in the tournament since 1998, while Portugal’s most recent appearance in the title match came at the 2014 European Championships.

Both sides entered the last four off the back of positive results, but only one team could go on to progress.

The opening fixture of the match saw Tiago Apolonia take on the top ranked French player Simon Gauzy, and despite a close encounter being anticipated the Portuguese competitor ended up racing to a straight games victory (11-4, 11-4, 11-8).

“Maybe it looked easy but it was far from that. I played very good and maybe that made the illusion that it was an easy match”, Tiago Apolonia.

Portugal then doubled its lead as Marcos Freitas saw off the European Men’s Singles champion Emmanuel Lebesson with a fine performance in the second match (11-2, 11-8, 9-11, 11-9), leaving France in serious danger.

However, a heroic effort from Quentin Robinot kept the French team in the match, claiming a terrific five games victory against João Monteiro (11-9, 11-1, 9-11, 7-11, 11-3) before Tristan Flore drew the scoreboard level defeating Marcos Freitas without dropping a game (12-10, 11-8, 11-9).

“It was a very close game. He had a 7-2 lead in the opening game, and who knows what could happened if he won… In this kind of match one or two balls can decide everything”, Quentin Robinot.

With neither team managing to reach the finish line following the conclusion of the opening four matches, one final fixture was required as Tiago Apolonia and Emmanuel Lebesson met face-to-face in the decider.

Emmanuel Lebesson set the early pace in the tie and deservedly moved two games to one in front, putting France just a single game win away from the final.

Yet, the Frenchman couldn’t finish his opponent off allowing Tiago Apolonia to fight his way back into the encounter, eventually earning the win in five ends (8-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7, 11-6) to send Portugal through to the gold medal match.

“I can only repeat that I played well, like in the opening match, but there is a big difference from when you are starting at 0-0 and when you return to the game at 2-2, especially after you face the adversary who recovered from two matches to nil in reverse. They were on fire and I was under great pressure”, Tiago Apolonia.

Liebherr 2017 European Championships Simon Gauzy Marcos Freitas Emmanuel Lebesson Tiago Apolonia Joao Monteiro Tristan Flore Quentin Robinot

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Day 5 - Liebherr 2017 ITTF-European Team Championships