by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Unbeaten, having accounted for Brazil’s Carlos Ishida one day earlier (11-1, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7), Xue Fei duly secured first place, being one of several names who concluded the first phase without defeat by overcoming the highest rated opponent in the group.
Defeat for one former ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles champion on the second morning of play; there was defeat for another. Iran’s Nima Alamian, the winner in 2015 in Belgium was beaten by Spain’s Jesus Cantero (11-9, 11-9, 11-4, 11-6).
Also, in a somewhat similar manner, the runner up one year later in Belgium experienced defeat, success on home soil for Cédric Nuytinck but not in Budapest where he was the second highest ranked player in the qualification tournament. He suffered at the hands of Ukraine’s Viktor Yefimov (11-7, 11-8, 8-11, 11-4, 11-4).
Fine performances from Xue Fei, Jesus Cantero and Viktor Yefimov; they were not alone in securing top spot in their respective groups by beating the highest rated player in their concluding contests.
Moreover, there was notable success for Denmark, Zhai Yujia overcame Hong Kong’s Lam Siu Hang (8-11, 11-4, 11-2, 11-9, 11-9, 11-5), Anders Lind ended the hopes of England’s Sam Walker (11-6, 12-14, 11-8, 13-11).
“My plan was to start the attack first and keep him under pressure, I didn’t let him find his own rhythm. Also he made a few more unforced errors then me and I think I was better near the net than him.” Anders Lind
Defeat for Sam Walker but there was the reverse side of the coin for England. David McBeath upset the pecking order by overcoming Slovakia’s Lubomir Pistej (8-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-8, 11-4).
“I started a bit too passive; I ended up trailing two-nil. He received my serves well. I had to change my serves and adjust a little bit. Winning 11-9 when I was two-one down was the turning point of the match. After that I felt more relaxed and confident about my play; that made the difference in the outcome.” David McBeath
A good day for Denmark, nor for the Czech Republic; there were three surprise defeats. Brazil’s Cazuo Matsumoto, a pen-hold grip player like Jesus Cantero, overcame Pavel Sirucek (11-2, 12-10, 8-11, 9-11, 9-11, 11-4, 11-7). Belgium’s Robin Devos beat Tomas Polansky (11-4, 11-2, 9-11, 11-7, 11-5); Frenchman Alexandre Robinot accounted for Tomas Tregler (12-10, 11-6, 13-15, 11-9, 11-5).
Impressive performances, it was the same from Russia’s Alexey Liventsov and Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju as they upset the ranked order to top their groups. Alexey Liventsov accounted for Scotland’s Gavin Rumgay (11-7, 11-4, 11-4, 9-11, 11-6), Lin Yun-Ju ended the hopes of Austria’s Andreas Levenko (11-7, 11-4, 6-11, 11-6, 11-8).
Surprise outcomes but not for the top player on qualification stage duty; Tiago Apolonia duly reserved first place in his group without alarm, as did two further redoubtable names Germany’s Patrick Franziska and Chinese Taipei’s Liao Cheng-Ting.
The preliminary rounds now beckon.