by Simon Daish
The day began with semi-finals action in the Women’s Singles event as the four remaining competitors fought it out in the race to reach the final.
Romanian fans experienced mixed emotions in the morning session of play as Bernadette Szocs and Elizabeta Samara came away from their respective encounters with opposite outcomes.
Szocs put in another outstanding performance in the opening match of day two, defeating Swedish opponent Matilda Ekholm in straight games (11-7, 11-9, 11-9, 11-9) to book her spot in the title contest but for Samara there were scenes of disappointment as the second seed lost out to defending champion Li Jie (11-13, 11-7, 9-11, 6-11, 11-13).
In the Men’s Singles competition there were two excellent ties in the last four: the bottom of the draw saw five-time champions Timo Boll and Vladimir Samsonov meet while World no.1 Dimitrij Ovtcharov went head-to-head with one of the standout performers in Montreux, Jonathan Groth.
The semi-finals resulted in victories for the top two seeded players as Ovtcharov and Boll held off brave challenges from Groth (12-10, 11-7, 11-9, 9-11, 12-10) and Samsonov (10-12, 11-6, 11-4, 12-14, 11-5, 12-10) to set up an all-German final for the first time in the history of the tournament.
While Groth’s dreams of reaching the final were dashed earlier in the day the no.9 seed from Denmark rounded off his fantastic campaign in Montreux with a superb victory over Samsonov (7-11, 11-9, 11-9, 12-10, 4-11, 9-11, 11-6) to win the bronze medal on only his second appearance at the Europe Top 16 and earn his invitation for the Liebherr 2018 ITTF-Men’s World Cup.
“… I showed my strong face. All the matches I played here were very good. I am completely satisfied. I only regret I did not show more in the match against Ovtcharov in the semis. I’m not saying that I could have won, but I could have done more.” Jonathan Groth
Over in the Women’s Singles third-place play-off match it was Samara who came away with the bronze medal following a six games triumph against Ekholm (11-4, 8-11, 11-6, 11-9, 8-11, 11-8) but the Romanian was disappointed to miss out on the title.
“It was so difficult to play against Matilda and to play this match at all. I came here for the title and my thoughts were already in the final, but I lost in the semis. Matilda is a hard adversary to beat, she proved it once again here.” Elizabeta Samara
The penultimate fixture of the day produced a moment of magic for Romania as Bernadette Szocs lifted the Women’s Singles trophy for the first time.
Against the odds Szocs upset the seeding to overcome Li Jie across five games (12-10, 8-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-7), a result which has done wonders for the Romanian star’s confidence.
“I was not thinking that I play against the title holder. I was not afraid. My self-confidence is at the highest level. I played so many matches in the T2 against defenders… I can play against everyone now!” Bernadette Szocs
Then came the highly anticipated Men’s Singles final where the top two seeded players met face-to-face for the gold medal.
Ovtcharov arguably entered the tie as the slight favourite having prevailed against Boll in their previous two encounters on the world stage, however, it was the latter athlete who celebrated success in Montreux as Boll stormed to a clean sweep victory over his fellow countryman (13-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-6) to capture the title for the sixth occasion.
“… Ovtcharov has ruled the world in the past few months, but a few things today came together. I won the opening game, which was very important and other key thing is that Dimitrij was not in the best shape… Last year we played very often against each other and worked on some new tactics and services. It worked quite well. I think I found the solution to his game.” Timo Boll