20 Sep 2018

Winner in early February at the China Construction Bank 2018 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup in Montreux; on Thursday 20th September, Romania’s Bernadette Szocs made a successful start to her campaign in the Women’s Singles event at the Liebherr 2018 ITTF European Championships Alicante.

However, in her quest to add a second prestigious title to her collection in a space of nine months, she faced a most testing first round opponent; she confronted Sweden’s Li Fen, crowned European champion in 2012 in Schwechat and the player against whom the Romanian had experienced defeat at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games European Qualification tournament in Halmstad.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Seeding suggested that Bernadette Szocs was the clear favourite, she occupied the no.4 spot; Li Fen had been required to compete in two days of qualification; status prevailed, Bernadette Szocs won in four straight games (11-7, 11-3, 11-7, 11-6).

“The odds were against me. We played many times before and on most occasions she was the better player; today I was ready. I have been suffering from an injury, so I had to prepare even better than usual. I talked with my coach and with the people who know how to play against Li. I was so unhappy when I saw the draw. I could not believe that I would meet Li at such early stage. However, I thought if you want to be a champion you have to beat a great player sooner or a later. It proved soon is better, now I have regained my confidence with this victory.” Bernadette Szocs

Defeat for Li Fen and earlier in the day in the top half of the draw the end of the road for Luxembourg’s Ni Xialian, Lithuania’s Ruta Paskauskiene and Viktoria Pavlovich of Belarus in addition to Bernadette Szocs’ colleague and doubles partner, Elizabeta Samara; it means that only one former European Women’s Singles champion remains. Austria’s Liu Jia, the winner in 2005 in Aarhus, the no.11 seed in Alicante, emerged successful in her opening round encounter, she beat Sweden’s Linda Bergström (14-12, 6-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-8).

Wins for Bernadette Szocs and Liu Jia as anticipated. It was the same from the other leading names on duty in the lower half of the Women’s Singles draw. Li Jie of the Netherlands, the no.2 seed, beat Russia’s Anastasia Kolish (11-1, 11-9, 11-2, 11-7), Poland’s Li Qian, the no.5 seed proved too stout in defence for Belgium’s Lisa Lung (11-5, 11-6, 11-5, 11-4). Likewise Portugal’s Fu Yu, the no.7 seed, ended the progress of Italy’s Jamila Laurenti (11-5, 11-9, 12-10, 11-2).

However, there were surprises and there was a notable success for the host nation, Zhang Xuan beat Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova (15-13, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 11-6).

“I was very nervous before the match, because Balazova is very dangerous player. I was under pressure to stay focused and I was not happy at the start of my match. However, my game improved during the match. My services were good and that gave me extra confidence. Barbora does not feel confident when she is playing against left handers; that also helped.” Zhang Xuan

Success for Spain but there was also disappointment, Galia Dvorak, the no.28 seed was beaten Austria’s Amelie Solja (11-5, 11-5, 10-12, 11-8, 11-8). Heartache for Galia Dvorak, it was the same for Germany’s Kirstin Lang, the no.22 seed, Luxembourg’s Sarah de Nutte, the no.25 seed and Italy’s Deborah Vivarelli, the no.32 seed.

Laura Gasnier of France beat Sarah de Nutte (9-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8, 11-3), England’s Tin-Tin Ho accounted for Debora Vivarelli (9-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-6, 11-4). In a similar vein, Romania’s Daniela Monteiro Dodean ended the exploits of Kirstin Lang (11-8, 8-11, 14-12, 9-11, 11-6, 11-8).

“Kristin plays with lot of power, it is very hard to control her game. I had to play more aggressively and to take some risks. In key moments I changed my service to confuse her.” Daniela Monteiro Dodean

The second round of the Women’s Singles event will be played in entirety on Friday 21st September.

2018 Liebherr European Championships Bernadette Szocs

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