by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
He beat the most venerable of all, he beat Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, the no.8 seed (9-11, 11-6, 11-9, 12-10, 9-11, 9-11, 11-5); the man who was present in the first year of the ITTF World Tour in 1996 when he won in Italy beating Johnny Huang in the final and is now on duty in the first tournament of the 23rd year.
“He is the master of the table tennis short game and placement. I’ve never beaten him in my life and now finally the dream comes true. In this competition I feel I am improving match by match and today I was so focused on each ball, making sure I played with good quality. It has paid off.” Patrick Franziska.
The fact that the win is so special for Patrick Franziska pays testament to the high regard which everyone in the sport holds for Vladimir Samsonov.
Success for one qualifier as the first round of the Men’s Singles event came to a close, there were successes for two more; Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia beat Hungary’s Tamas Lakatos, the no.16 seed (9-11, 9-11, 11-1, 12-10, 11-5, 11-4), China’s Wang Chuqin accounted for Ricardo Walther, the no.10 seed and like Patrick Franziska from Germany (11-6, 11-3, 11.3, 8-11, 11-7).
“We know each other well and we are good friends, he surprised me with his very quick start. The close fourth game changed the match. He lost his confidence a bit and I could capitalise.” Tiago Apolonia
“I am happy with the way I played, I think there was little more in the tank but he played the right shots and the right time.” Tamas Lakatos
Otherwise, it was success as status predicted but there were two close calls resulting in mixed fortunes for Denmark.
Jonathan Groth beat Sweden’s Truls Moregard, by the very narrowest margins in a full distance contest (8-11, 7-11, 11-7, 11-8, 8-11, 11-8, 11-9), to book his second round place to fly the Danish flag high.
“He has had amazing competition so far. I could feel he is in a good shape right from the start. I gave him too many cheap points in the first two games and went two-nil down; then slowly, slowly my game came together and I could adjust to his style of play.” Jonathan Groth
Soon after the Danish flag was lowered despite a most worthy effort; Zhai Yujia gave Alvaro Robles, the no.14 seed, a most severe test, the Spaniard eventually prevailing in seven games (11-8, 2-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-4, 4-11, 7-11, 11-8).
“He is a very dangerous player sometimes he plays fast with a high risk game; that I could not handle. There was a lot of tension changes in this match. I made good decisions especially in the last game after 8-8; the victory was mine, happy to be in the last 16.” Alvaro Robles
Success as anticipated for Jonathan Groth and Alvaro Robles, rather less dramatically it was success for the Chinese Taipei duo of Chuang Chih-Yuan and Chen Chien-An, as it was for China’s Fan Zhendong.
Impressively, Chuang Chih-Yuan, the no.2 seed, beat Austria’s Stefan Fegerl in five games (11-8, 11-8, 11-4, 5-11, 11-6); in one game more Chen Chien-An, the no.7 seed, ended the hopes of Singapore’s Gao Ning (18-16, 8-11, 11-8, 11-6, 7-11, 11-7). Meanwhile, showing no charity, Fan Zhendong, the top seed, beat teenage colleague Xu Xin (11-5, 11-7, 11-2, 11-5).
Play in the second round of the Men’s Singles event commences on Friday 19th January at 4.50pm (local time).