05 May 2019

The first titles decided at the Seamaster 2019 ITTF Challenge Serbia Open in Belgrade; on the penultimate day of action, Saturday 4th May, Frenchman Leo de Nodrest and Russia’s Maria Malanina emerged the somewhat surprise winners of the respective under 21 men’s singles and under 21 women’s singles titles.

Unexpected outcomes but the greatest quantity of surprises accrued in the men’s singles event; England’s Paul Drinkhall, the no.12 seed, emerged the highest ranked player to reserve a semi-final place. Rather differently in the women’s singles event, the lowest rated player to reach the penultimate round was the no.5 seed, Russia’s Polina Mikhailova.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

It was a day of contrasting fortunes.

Men’s Singles

…………England’s Paul Drinkhall, the no.12 seed, beat Austria’s Stefan Fegerl, the top seed (11-7, 5-11, 9-11, 11-9, 2-11, 11-5, 11-6), prior posting a quarter-final success in opposition to Japanese qualifier Shogo Tahara (11-2, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7).

…………Russia’s 18 year old Lev Katsman recorded a shock third round against Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar, the no.2 seed (11-9, 10-12, 11-9, 11-7, 11-9). However, the euphoria was short lived; in the next round he was beaten by French qualifier Abdel-Kader Salifou (11-6, 11-6, 11-8, 11-5).

…………Puerto Rico’s 22 year old Brian Afanador set whole new standards for the Caribbean by becoming the first player from that part of the world to reach the semi-final stage of a men’s singles event at an ITTF Challenge Series or ITTF World Tour tournament. The no.19 seed, after beating Hungary’s Adam Szudi, the no.26 seed (11-3, 7-11, 11-5, 10-12, 6-11, 14-12, 11-8), he ousted Japanese qualifier, Yuta Tanaka (11-8, 8-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-8).

…………Croatia’s Frane Kojic, the no.16 seed, caused a major third round upset; he beat Paraguay’s Marcelo Aguirre, the no.3 seed (9-11, 5-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-6, 15-13). However, there was to be no semi-final place; in the next round he suffered at the hands of Frenchman, Andrea Landrieu, the no.21 seed (11-5, 11-7, 8-11, 11-9, 11-7).

Women’s Singles

…………Russia’s Polina Mikhailova, the no.5 seed, emerged the only surprise semi-finalist; she ended the hopes of Hong Kong. In the third round she beat Zhu Chengzhu, the no.28 seed (11-7, 11-9, 11-8, 11-6), prior to overcoming Ng Wing Nam, the no.3 seed (11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 8-11, 11-5).

…………Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova reached her career first women’s singles semi-final on at an open international tournament. The no.4 seed she beat Hong Kong qualifier, Zhang Wenling (13-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-6), prior to overcoming Russia’s Anna Bikbaeva (11-8, 11-9, 11-8, 11-5), also a qualifier.

…………Minnie Soo Wai Yam, the no.2 seed, kept the hopes of Hong Kong alive. After defeating Japan’s Sakura Mori, the no.15 seed (7-11, 13-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-7), she ended the hopes of Italy’s Li Xiang, the no.17 seed (11-7, 11-5, 9-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-6).

…………Japan’s Hina Hayata made her intentions perfectly clear. The top seed, she beat colleague and qualifier, Airi Abe (11-9, 7-11, 12-10, 11-5, 11-6), prior to booking her semi-final place courtesy of success when facing Hungary’s Szandra Pergel, the no.7 seed (6-11, 11-1, 11-6, 11-1, 11-3).

Men’s Doubles

…………Marko Jevtovic and Zsolt Peto, the no.8 seeds, flew the flag for Serbia. They beat Belgium’s Martin Allegro and Florent Lambiet, the no.2 seeds (6-11, 11-5, 12-10, 11-9), prior to recording a semi-final success in opposition to qualifiers, the combination of Hungary’s Bence Majoros and Denmark’s Tobias Rasmussen (11-7, 9-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-6). In the final they meet Portugal’s Diogo Carvalho and João Geraldo, also qualifiers and shock penultimate round winners against Hungary’s Nandor Ecseki and Adam Szudi, the top seeds (12-10, 6-11, 11-6, 16-14).

Women’s Doubles

…………The top two seeded pairs advanced to the title deciding contest. At the semi-final stage Hong Kong’s Ng Wing Nam and Minnie Soo Wai Yam, the top seeds, beat Spain’s Galia Dvorak and Zhang Sofia-Xuan, the no.4 seeds (11-6, 11-8, 11-7). In the opposite half of the draw Hungary’s Dora Madarasz and Szandra Pergel, the no.2 seeds, accounted for Serbia’s Izabela Lupulesku and Sabina Surjan, the no.8 seeds (11-7, 11-8, 13-15, 14-12)

Under 21 Men’s Singles

…………Leo de Nodrest, the no.12 seed, beat colleague Bastien Rembert, the no.10 seed (11-2, 12-10, 11-4) in an all French final to secure his first such title.

Under 21 Women’s Singles

…………Defence prevailed, Maria Malanina, the no.4 seed, overcame Hong Kong’s Mak Tze Wing, the no.8 seed (11-5, 11-7, 11-8) to reserve the top step of the podium and thus recorded a landmark success.

Challenge Series 2019 Seamaster Serbia Open Paul Drinkhall

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