by Simon Daish
One of the biggest shocks of the day came courtesy of Andreas Levenko, who displayed great determination to see off India’s Sathiyan Gnanasekaran.
Occupying position 119 in the Men’s World Rankings list for March and ranked 70 positions lower than his opponent, it’s fair to say that Levenko entered the tie with the odds stacked against him. But the Austrian wasn’t fazed by the task at hand, defeating Gnanasekaran in a seven game thriller (11-9, 10-12, 6-11, 11-9, 11-9, 5-11, 13-11) to secure his place in the next qualifying round.
Elimination at the first hurdle for Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, it was the same outcome for João Monteiro and Daniel Habesohn: Portuguese contestant Monteiro suffered a straight games defeat to Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju (11-3, 11-7, 11-6, 11-9) while Habesohn’s campaign was brought to an end by Panagiotis Gionis (6-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-6, 8-11, 13-11).
Jeong Sangeun negotiated his opening group stage match with little difficulty, but it was a very different story for the Korea Republic representative on the second day of qualifying. The Men’s Singles runner up at the 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships was pushed right down to the wire by Masaki Takami (11-5, 12-10, 8-11, 13-11, 11-13, 7-11, 11-4), a major test for the Korean but a victory nonetheless.
Another scare for a Korean player came in the Women’s Singles group stage as Yang Haeun came close to an early exit; the top ranked player in Group 5 lost out to Slovak opponent Barbora Balazova across six games (6-11, 11-5, 11-3, 11-7, 4-11, 11-7) but a superior games ratio saw Yang Haeun move one step closer to the main draw.
Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm also deserves her place in the spotlight following her fantastic outing against China’s Zhang Qiang. Leading by three games to nil in the final Group 11 encounter it was looking more and more likely that Zhang Qiang would end the day at the summit of the group, however, Matilda Ekholm kept up the fight and remarkably turned the match on its head with four consecutive game wins (7-11, 8-11, 2-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8, 11-5).
Cheng Hsien-Tzu is through to the final qualifying stage after the Chinese Taipei player narrowly accounted for Spain’s Maria Xiao (7-11, 14-16, 11-6, 11-6, 11-8, 10-12, 11-4). Canadian representative Zhang Mo also progressed, beating Miyu Nagasaki in straight games (11-9, 13-11, 11-8, 19-17) to set up a tie with Yulia Prokhorova.
The day closed out in dramatic style as the two Under 21 competitions played out quarter-finals action, producing a number of notable results.
Truls Moregard pulled off a superb four games victory over rising Chinese star Yu Ziyang (13-11, 11-6, 2-11, 12-10) to book a Under 21 Men’s Singles semi-finals match with An Jaehyun, who recovered from a two games deficit to defeat Kanak Jha (4-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-8). There was also a powerful display from second seed Saki Shibata; she proved successful against fellow compatriot Hitomi Sato (11-7, 11-6, 11-5) to reach the last four of the Under 21 Women’s Singles draw.