by Simon Daish
Named as the no.3 player in Group 1 but Simon Söderlund ended the day as the star name of the group; the Swedish contestant opened with a five games win against Sebastian Echevarria (12-14, 11-6, 12-10, 11-5, 11-6) before earning a terrific result in his encounter with Luxembourg’s Eric Glod (9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 13-15, 6-11, 11-5, 11-3) to seal his place at the top of the group.
Elias Ranefur was another player to give Swedish table tennis fans a reason to cheer with his solid outing against Brazil’s Vitor Santos in Group 14 (11-7, 11-8, 11-5, 11-5). Viktor Brodd, Anders Eriksson, Simon Berglund, Harald Andersson and Simon Arvidsson also contributed opening day victories for Sweden.
The Spanish team also deserves a big mention for its display with none of its five athletes suffering opening day defeats in Otocec.
Starting his qualification journey with a straight games win over the host nation’s Crt Grm Urbancic (11-5, 11-3, 11-8, 11-7), Guillermo Martinez can seal his place at the summit of the group with a positive outcome from his final Group 35 tie against Argentina’s Francisco Sanchi. Joan Masip, Carlos Franco and Carlos Caballero also remain undefeated but there was a narrow escape for Miguel Vilchez, who was pushed right down to the wire by Hungary’s Sebestyen Kovacs (11-7, 11-8, 8-11, 11-6, 10-12, 4-11, 12-10).
Italy’s Antonino Amato has secured first position in Group 10 with a match to spare; he registered a straight games win in his opening group fixture with Gustavo Yokota of Brazil (11-9, 14-12, 12-10, 11-8) before inflicting a seven games defeat upon Kazakhstan’s Denis Zholudev (11-4, 11-4, 11-8, 9-11, 16-18, 9-11, 11-8) to bring his day’s work to a dramatic close.
Nandor Ecseki safely negotiated his first qualifying outing in Otocec against Slovak opponent Samuel Kaluzny (11-4, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9), but there was no such joy for Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador who lost out to Croatia’s Tomislav Kolarek in his opening match (11-3, 11-5, 7-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-3).