by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In fact it will be more; Singapore’s Gao Ning, the winner in New Delhi in 2007 and Santiago in 2012 is drawn in the same group as Serbia’s Zsolt Peto, crowned champion in 2009 in Minsk.
Similarly in the group phase, Soumyajit Ghosh, who emerged successful last year at the 2017 ITTF Challenge Seamaster Chile Open, faces Russia’s Vasily Lakeev, victorious on the 2012 ITTF World in Cairo and Minsk.
Furthermore, first place in the initial phase group is no guarantee whatsoever of progress to the main draw. There are no less than 54 groups in the preliminary stage of the Men’s Singles event; players finishing in first place in Group No.11 to Group No.54 compete in preliminary round one. The 22 winners advance to preliminary round two where they are joined by the players who finished in first places in Group No.1 to Group No.10; the winners of the second preliminary round join the 16 seeds in the main draw.
An exacting journey and in addition to those who face each other in the group phase there could well be a significant number of ITTF World Tour winners who do not appear in the main draw on the morning of Thursday 18th January. Who knows what the preliminary rounds may reveal?
Also, note the leading names on qualification duty; of the top five only Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia has won an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles event; memorably he won in 2010 in Wels when beating Germany’s Timo Boll in the final. The next in line in Budapest, Belgium’s Cédric Nuytinck, Germany’s Patrick Franziska, Chinese Taipei’s Liao Cheng-Ting and Benedikt Duda, like Patrick Franziska from Germany, have never won such titles. Competition is intense.
Meanwhile, just for the record, the complete list of those competing in the qualification stage in Budapest and have won ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles is: Sharath Kamal Achanta (India), Nima Alamian (Iran), Tiago Apolonia (Portugal), Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (India), Gao Ning (Singapore), Daniel Habesohn (Austria), Eric Jouti (Brazil), Liu Dingshuo (China), Tomas Konecny (Czech Republic), Vasily Lakeev (Russia), Thiago Monteiro (Brazil), Cazuo Matsumoto (Brazil), Benedek Olah (Finland), Yu Ziyang (China), Zsolt Peto (Serbia).