by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Victory meant that he not only emulated Lim Jonghoon but if we add the ITTF World Tour to the equation, also he followed in the footsteps of another Korean, Lee Sangsu.
In 2010, Lee Sangsu, when he beat Sweden’s Jens Lundqvist in the final of the Men’s Singles event in Slovenia, he became the first player at an ITTF World Tour tournament to start play in the qualification stage and conclude matters standing on the top step of the podium. Now Kim Minhyeok is the most recent.
A close first came was secured by Kim Minhyeok, at 10-8 the Korean held two game points; serving Robert Gardos saved the first but then chanced his arm with a long service to the body of his adversary. Kim Minhyeok responded, a flashing forehand top spin left the Austrian flat footed.
Kim Minhyeok returned courtside for advice from his doubles partner, Cho Eonrae; for Robert Gardos, the advisor was Russia’s Vladimir Choubine, now for many years resident in southern Spain and in the early 1990s the coach at the La General Club in Granada.
Stay close to the table, attack quickly, especially from the backhand was the tactic required by Robert Gardos against Kim Minhyeok, who preferred to extol his skills from the so-called, half distance. Robert Gardos won the second game but with Kim Minhyeok always the favourite in forehand top spin rallies, the third and fourth games both went to the 21 year old Korean.
Trailing 3-4 in the fifth game, Robert Gardos called “Time Out”, it appeared a prudent move; at 9-6 he held a three point advantage. Alas for Austria, he was not able to convert, Kim Minhyeok won the next four points, the match point was saved as were two more but four in a row proved too much.
The title was secured, as in 2006 in Chile, in his only previous Men’s Singles final on either the ITTF World Tour or ITTF Challenge Series, it was defeat; in Santiago his nemesis was Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, in Guadalajara it was Kim Minhyeok.