18 Sep 2018

Just under two years ago in Budapest in mid-October, he commenced play as the no.15 seed; when proceedings concluded, he was the European champion. It was a major surprise.

Retaining the title at the Liebherr 2018 ITTF World Championships, which commence in Alicante, Spain on Tuesday 18th September, is a momentous task; once again the odds are stacked against the 30 year old.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

History suggests that a surprise winner does not repeat the feat and even those who started amongst favourites, find retention difficult; this presents an added problem for Emmanuel Lebesson. Three players who have performed successful title retentions are all on duty in Alicante; Germany’s Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov are the respective top two seeds, Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus is the no.9 seed.

No member of that illustrious trio has really excelled in recent months, none this year has won an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title; that is the high standard by which they are measured. However, I suggest that past results this year may count for nought, the European Championships is for them one of the very biggest events of the year; it is a prime event on their calendar. They will be in the best shape possible.

It suggests that it is a daunting prospect for Emmanuel Lebesson but he has an omen on his side; just as in Budapest, he is the no.15 seed! Can lightning strike twice?

Likewise but in a different manner, for Austria’s Sofia Polcanova, the top seed in the Women’s Singles event, the task just as formidable; can she respond when the favourite? She has five ITTF World Tour Under 21 Women’s Singles titles to her name, last year in Zagreb she was the runner up at the ITTF Challenge Croatia Open.

They are worthy credentials but how do they compare with the achievements and experience of the other leading names on duty? Next in line is Li Jie of the Netherlands pursued Romania’s Elizabeta Samara; they contested the 2015 final, the latter the winner. Notably, also from Romania, Bernadette Szocs, the winner of the Europe Top 16 tournament earlier in the year, is the no.4 seed, one place ahead of Portugal’s Fu Yu, the runner up two years ago.

A testing road ahead; for three former champions, the road is even more exacting and much longer.

In the Men’s Singles event, Denmark’s Michael Maze, the winner in 2009 in Stuttgart, must start in the qualification event, as in the Women’s Singles event must Sweden’s Li Fen and Ruta Paskauskiene. Li Fen won in 2013 in Schwechat, Ruta Paskauskiene in 2008 in St Petersburg.

2018 Liebherr European Championships Emmanuel Lebesson

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