14 Mar 2018

Surprise first places and thus progress to the main draw in the Women’s Singles event at the 2018 ITTF Challenge Series Polish Open in Spala, there was no shortage of unexpected outcomes as play in the qualification tournament came to a close on Wednesday 14th March; pride of place went to Korea’s Kim Jiho and Romania’s Alina Zaharia.

Only players finishing in first places in each of the 32 groups advanced to join the 32 seeded players in the main draw; thus as the concluding matches in the group stage were enacted, tension mounted

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager

Unbeaten on the opening day of action, both Kim Jiho and Alina Zaharia overcame the highest rated player in their respective groups to secure top spot; Kim Jiho accounted for Egypt’s Yousra Helmy (11-4, 11-5, 11-4, 11-5), in a rather closer contest decided by the minimal two point margin in the seventh game, Alina Zaharia ended the hopes of Yoo Eunchong, like Kim Jiho from Korea (11-9, 11-8, 5-11, 9-11, 8-11, 12-10, 12-10).

Listed at no.114 on the current Women’s World Rankings, Yousra Helmy started proceedings as the second highest ranked player in the qualification tournament; at no.135, Yoo Eunchong was the eighth highest listed.

Unexpected first places, there were plenty more, as the concluding group phase contests witnessed losses for the highest ranked in the group; the players against whom they experienced defeat ending the initial phase with an unblemished record.

England’s Maria Tsaptsinos beat Chile’s Daniela Ortega (11-7, 9-11, 7-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-9); Italy’s Li Xiang accounted for Germany’s Wann Yuan (9-11, 11-7, 11-8, 11-6, 11-3). In a similar manner Romania’s Andreea Dragoman overcame Italy’s Nathalie Marchetti (16-14, 8-11, 8-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-6), whilst Ukraine’s Ganna Farladanska beat Norway’s Ilka Doval (12-10, 11-8, 11-8, 11-7) and Laura Pfeffer of France ended the hopes of the host nation’s Klaudia Kusinska (11-8, 8-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-6, 13-11).

Success against the odds for Ukraine and as matters came to a conclusion, the eastern European country enjoyed more success contrary to expectations. Margaryta Pesotska defeated Romania’s Irina Ciobanu (6-11, 11-7, 8-11, 10-12, 11-7, 11-6, 11-7), Ievgenila Vasylieva accounted for Kim Vermass of the Netherlands (11-9, 11-3, 11-5, 11-8).

Fine performance from Ukraine, importantly the host nation was not to be left out; against the odds, Natalia Bajor beat Hungary’s Bernadett Balint (8-11, 11-8, 11-7, 12-10, 11-9) to reserve first place in her group.

Meanwhile, thanks principally to performances on the opening day of play, the host nation’s Julia Slazak and Agata Zakrzewska alongside Chinese Taipei’s Tsui Pao-Wen also topped their respective groups contrary to expectations.

Upsets, with the exception of Yousra Helmy it was top spot for the leading names without due alarm; Chinese Taipei’s Huang Yi-Hua, Stéphanie Loueillette of France and Turkey’s Sibel Altinkaya all secured first places.

Challenge Series 2018 Polish Open Kim Jiho Alina Zaharia

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