by Simon Daish
The first pen-holder to win the Boys’ Singles gold medal on the World Junior Championships stage with his success in Riva de Garda last month, Xue Fei is beginning to make headlines on the international scene but now he will surely face his fiercest test to date with top seed Fan Zhendong providing the opposition in the Round of 32.
Vladimir Samsonov will begin his 2018 campaign with a tricky encounter as the Belarusian legend takes on Germany’s Patrick Franziska. Winner of 27 Men’s Singles gold medals on the ITTF World Tour, eighth seed Samsonov is naturally a major contender for silverware in Budapest but can Franziska cause an upset and inflict an opening round defeat on the 41-year-old?
Another tie which could deliver plenty of drama sees Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan and Austria’s Stefan Fegerl meet face-to-face while Portuguese star João Geraldo takes on fifth seed Ruwen Filus.
Impressive in the qualification tournament which took place from Tuesday 16th to Wednesday 17th February, Olga Vorobeva stunned spectators in Budapest by eliminating Germany’s Sabine Winter in the second preliminary round and has been rewarded with arguably the toughest challenge available with World no.1 Chen Meng awaiting the Russian in the first round.
Li Xiang was one of the stars of the qualifying stages, reaching the main draw with a promising outing against Croatia’s Sun Jiayi. The Italian representative will meet 12th seed Soo Wai Yam Minnie in the Round of 32 – can the unseeded player defy the odds and extend her Women’s Singles campaign with a victory over the Hong Kong competitor?
Seventh seed and local hero Georgina Pota will need to be at her best right from the get go as she does battle with Chinese teenage ace Sun Yingsha while the two other Hungarian contestants involved in action, Szandra Pergel and Dora Madarasz, face Bernadette Szocs of Romania and Canada’s Mo Zhang respectively.
Prior to the singles fixtures there will be Round of 16 action from the Men’s Doubles and Women’s Doubles competitions.