by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
In Bremen in last month’s Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Platinum Open, the 22 year old was in quite outstanding form. In the Men’s Singles event after securing first place in his group he beat Japan’s Yuto Kizukuri and Portugal’s Tiago Apolonia in the preliminary rounds to book his place in the main, where his compatriot and elder statesman, Chuang Chih-Yuan ended progress.
Encouraging signs for Otocec, for Hong Kong’s Ng Pak Nam and Lam Siu Hang who are the respective third and fourth seeds behind Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi and Alvaro Robles, both players who have not excelled this year, the signs are not positive.
On duty in Guadalajara at the recent 2018 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open, both suffered earlier than anticipated defeats; Lam Siu Hang, the no.3 seed was beaten in the second round of the Men’s Singles event by Portugal’s Diogo Carvalho, whilst one round later Ng Pak Nam also disappeared from view at the hands of a qualifier. However, now with the benefit of knowing what happened next, the reverse was arguably no great surprise; he was beaten by Korea’s Kim Minhyeok, the eventual champion.
Disappointment for Lam Siu Hang and Ng Pak Nam in the Men’s Singles event in Spain; in the Men’s Doubles it was just the same; the top seeds they were beaten on the opening round by the unheralded Indian partnership of Raj Mondal and Sourav Saha. In Otocec they are the no.2 seeds behind Hungary’s Nandor Ecseki and Adam Szudi, the runners up last year when beaten in the final by Korea’s Cho Wonjin and Lee Jungwoo.
The leading five names are all striving to win their first ever ITTF Challenge Series Men’s Singles title, a fact that applies to the next two in the order of merit; those of Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu and Hunor Szocs. However, for the player who completes the top eight entrants, Austria’s Daniel Habesohn, a similar accolade has been achieved; in 2014 he won the Men’s Singles title at the ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open.
One prior winner amongst the leading names in the Men’s Singles event; in the Under 21 Men’s Singles event, three names have reserved the top step of the podium. Japan’s Yuki Matsuyama is the defending champion, he is the no.6 seed; last year Romania’s Cristian Pletea won in Belarus, he is the fourth name in the order of merit.
However, the man in form is Poland’s Marek Badowski; last month he won on home soil in Spala beating Austria’s Andreas Levenko in the final. In Otocec Andreas Levenko is the no.3 seed, Marek Badowski is the no.8 seed.
Players in form, the Under 21 Men’s Singles competition is quite the antithesis of the Men’s Singles event. The Czech Republic’s Tomas Polansky is the top seed; just under one month ago in Belarus he won the Men’s Singles title at the 2018 Belgosstrakh European Under 21 Championships beating Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic in the semi-final and Cristian Pletea in the final.
On home soil, Darko Jorgic is the no.2 seed; Hungary’s Bence Majoros, the runner up in Budapest in January is the no.5 seed, Patryk Zatowka, like Marek Badowski from Poland is the no.7 seed in what looks a most intriguing event.
The Under 21 Men’s Singles and Under 21 Women’s Singles qualification events start proceedings in Otocec.