by Simon Daish
The lowest ranked player in Group 7 but Ivana Malobabic made a strong start to her qualification campaign in Otocec, earning a comfortable clean sweep victory over Sarah Meyer of Luxembourg (11-4, 11-7, 11-8, 11-4).
However, the second group fixture produced an even greater story as Malobabic stunned group favourite Li Yu-Jhun, beating the Chinese Taipei contestant in a seven game thriller (11-4, 2-11, 11-6, 5-11, 11-9, 10-12, 11-7).
Success for Ivana Malobabic and the same can be said for fellow compatriot Ida Jazbec; she saw off India’s Amrutha Pushpak with little difficulty (11-4, 11-7, 11-8, 11-8) and will face Amelie Solja in the Group 6 finale.
Melanie Diaz experienced opening day drama, losing out in her first group stage encounter in disappointing fashion.
The Puerto Rican player fell to Russia’s Anastasiia Komova in straight games (11-7, 11-6, 11-7, 11-9) and now requires a convincing victory against Yumeno Soma of Japan if she is to keep her hopes of securing top spot in Group 3 alive.
There was a close scare for one of the major contenders in the race to reach the Women’s Singles main draw as Serbia’s Andrea Todorovic narrowly avoided an opening day upset, edging to a seven games win over Hungarian opponent Orsolya Feher (11-3, 5-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-7) to keep her campaign on track.
Semi-finalist at the recent 2018 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open, Korea’s Yoon Hyobin has successfully negotiated her qualifying group in Otocec with positive displays against Lam Yee Lok (11-9, 11-8, 11-9, 11-8) and Izabela Lupulesku (11-8, 11-6, 11-7, 11-5) while fellow Korean representatives Sim Hyunju and Kim Youjin also came through their respective groups undefeated.