by Ian Marshall, Editor
Notably of the 34 times to date that the event has been staged, starting with Hans Alser in 1962 in Berlin, Sweden has claimed the precious crown no less than 10 times, Germany is just one behind; in over 55 per cent of the editions of the prestigious tournament, those two countries have prevailed.
Overall, a total of nine national associations have struck Men’s Singles gold; now compare that ratio with the Women’s Singles competition; only Hungary has provided the champion on more than five occasions. They succeeded six times.
Meanwhile, the now disbanded Soviet Union delivered the winner on five occasions, the Netherlands has spawned the champion four times, Germany and Romania each three times, Belarus and Sweden twice; for the rest it is just once. Overall, a total of 34 tournaments, 15 national associations have won Women’s Singles gold.
The spread is much greater than amongst the men and is that fact not reflected in the Women’s Singles event in Alicante.
Consider the names of the players on duty who appear in the top 40 of the current Women’s World Ranking list; there are ten players in total representing nine national associations.
Sofia Polcanova flies the flag for Austria; Li Jie is on duty for the Netherlands, Li Qian is in the colours of Poland. Likewise, the names of Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm, Portugal’s Fu Yu, Hungary’s Georgina Pota and Germany’s Han Ying appear on the entry list, as does that of Luxembourg’s Ni Xialian. Meanwhile, just outside, at no.41 on the current Women’s World Rankings, is a second Austrian in the guise of Liu Jia, the winner in 2005 in Aarhus.
All must be considered title contenders but it is the one country that has two players amongst the top 40 names that possesses the greatest chance of success in Alicante?
Romania’s Elizabeta Samara is at no.20, Bernadette Szocs at no.26; both will be in action and are they not the players who this year have the greatest cause amongst the elite names to start the tournament with a few degrees of confidence?
In early February, Bernadette Szocs emerged successful in Montreux at the China Construction Bank 2018 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup; meanwhile amongst the leading names on duty in Alicante, Elizabeta Samara, the winner in 2015 in Ekaterinburg, is the one player this year to have excelled at an open international tournament. In April she was the runner up in Zagreb at the 2018 ITTF Challenge Croatia Open.
Do they start as favourites? Possibly but ask ten people to name their favourites, for the men you’ll hear the names of Germany’s Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov, for the women you’ll receive ten different nominations. It’s wide open in Alicante.
Just remember, Romania has a liking for the continental tournament; last year they won the Women’s title at the 2017 European Team Championships in Luxembourg.