by Ian Marshall, Editor
The task for the 20 year old is the climb one step higher, in Under 21 Men’s Singles events at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments this year he has enjoyed most promising results; he reached the semi-final round in Poland and Spain whilst in Croatia, he was the runner up.
Replicate those finishes in Minsk in the Men’s Singles event and that will be a major target achieved.
On duty are players who have made that step. Notably, Iran’s Nima Alamian, the Czech Republic’s Tomas Konecny and Japan’s Kohei Sambe have all ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles titles to their credit. Tomas Konecny won in 2016 in Bulgaria, one year earlier Nima Alamian prevailed in Belgium, whilst turning the clock further back, in 2014 in Chile, Kohei Sambe emerged victorious. Pertinently, Kohei Sambe was only 16 years old when he succeeded, at the time the youngest ever such winner.
In Minsk, he has somewhat of a point to prove; in the Men’s Singles event, he is the no.30 seed. Somewhat differently, Nima Alamian is the no.3 seed and Tomas Konecny, the no.13 seed.
Undoubtedly, they are names to note, especially, Nima Alamian who earlier this year was a semi-finalist in Spain. However, are the names of which we should take the greatest note in the Men’s Singles event those of Frenchman Antoine Hachard and Slovakia’s Lubomir Pistej? Both have been runners up this year, Lubomir Pistej reached the final in Slovenia losing to Japan’s Mizuki Oikawa, Antoine Hachard was beaten by host nation’s Quadri Aruna in Nigeria.
They are performances which the top two names in the Men’s Singles event in Minsk cannot match; the best this year for Ukraine’s Kou Lei, the top seed, is a quarter-final finish in Poland, for Kirill Skachkov, the no.2 seed, he has not advanced to the later rounds.
It is very much the same for the players who complete the top eight Men’s Singles names, Hungary’s Nandor Ecseki, Frenchman Alexandre Robinot and Belgium’s Robin Devos have yet to shine; the one notable performance amongst the group being that of Alexandre Robinot. At the Mediterranean Games in late June he reached the semi-final round of the Men’s Singles event.
The 2018 ITTF Challenge Belgosstrakh Belarus Open presents an opportunity for players to exceed previous efforts, a fact illustrated in the Men’s Doubles event.
Titles yet to be secured, India’s Harmeet Desai and Sanil Shetty, followed by Belgium’s Martin Allegro and Florent Lambiet occupy the respective top two seeded Men’s Doubles positions.