25 Jun 2019

One step nearer, one step nearer reserving one of the three coveted places for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games; on Tuesday 25th June at the Minsk 2019 2nd European Games there was no place for the faint of heart.

In the women’s singles event Luxembourg’s Ni Xia Lian, Monaco’s Yang Xiaoxin booked semi-final places; they were followed by Germany’s Han Ying and Portugal’s Fu Yu. Soon after in the men’s singles, Denmark’s Jonathan Groth and Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar reserved last four places as did Germany's Timo Boll and Ukraine’s Kou Lei.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Ni Xia Lian, the no.15 seed, as patient as ever against the defensive art, accounted for Sweden’s Linda Bergström, the no.26 seed (11-8, 11-7, 11-9, 5-11, 11-9); at the same time Yang Xiaoxin, the no.25 seed, displayed her liking for backspin play, she ended the hopes of Russia’s Polina Mikhailova, the no.12 seed (11-7, 11-9, 11-1, 11-5).

“I beat her already twice, so I had some mental advantage. Nevertheless, I was cautious. I knew I could not risk too much, I had to play conservatively and to be patient. Even though I was prepared, she surprised me a little. She has improved her game a great deal.” Ni Xia Lian

“I played her twice before in French League and won both times. I like to play against her style. I know what to do to win. Most important thing is to change the rhythm of the match constantly. I kept changing my service and kept changing the direction of my play. I changed forehand to backhand, went close to the table, then back. In second game she had a chance, she came close but after I won I think she just lost the edge to her game.” Yang Xiaoxin

Ni Xia Lian, straining every bone in her body (Photo: Rémy Gros)


Last four places booked, Han Ying, the no.13 seed, added her name to the list by beating Li Jie of the Netherlands, the no.7 seed (11-5, 8-11, 14-12, 11-7, 11-5) and thus reversed the decision of four years ago in Baku when experiencing defeat. Soon after, Fu Yu, the no.8 seed, staved off a spirited recovery by Germany’s Petrissa Solja, the no.4 seed, to emerge successful by the very narrowest of decisions (11-8, 12-10, 10-12, 11-6, 8-11, 7-11, 13-11).

“I tried to be more aggressive, not to be too passive. I have a mixed record against her. I beat her recently but I still remember our match from Baku when I lost.” Han Ying

“I did not panic when she recovered to level. It was important that I kept a clear head for the decisive game.” Fu Yu

Fu Yu who beat Petrissa Solja in a tension packed duel (Photo: Rémy Gros)


Meanwhile, in the men’s singles event both Tomislav Pucar and Jonathan Groth maintained their current good form. Tomislav Pucar, the no.12 seed, beat Frenchman Emmanuel Lebesson, the no.9 seed (10-12, 12-10, 12-10, 11-7, 11-6); Jonathan Groth, the no.10 seed, overcame Slovakia’s Wang Yang, the no.18 seed (11-9, 7-11, 12-14, 10-12, 12-10, 11-3, 11-7).

“I am exhausted; a few times in the match I thought I would get cramp. It was such a long and hard duel. At the end everything had to be perfect to beat him. I can tell that I am not satisfied with one or two strokes I played during the match, everything else was perfect. Even if I had lost I would be still thinking the same. He is so fast, maybe the fastest player in the field. I started well; I won the first game by a narrow margin. If the gap had been 11-4 or 11-5 maybe he might not have been so motivated but because it was close, he lifted his game.” Jonathan Groth

“I had a shaky start to the match; I had two game points at 10-8 but made it easy for him, I made easy errors and lost the game. However, I kept a positive energy and attitude and continued with lot of self-confidence. Next two games I won by narrow margins and it was only the third game, when I finally read the Lebesson’s style.” Tomislav Pucar

Tomislav Pucar eventually found the answers (Photo: Rémy Gros)


Unexpected semi-finalists and there was one even more surprise name; Ukraine’s Kou Lei, the no.33 seed, continued to defy the odds. He reserved his last four place courtesy of success in opposition to Belgium’s Cédric Nuytinck, the no.14 seed (10-12, 11-8, 11-8, 11-8, 4-11, 12-10).

A major surprise but amidst all the mayhem there was one name that advanced as predicted; Germany’s Timo Boll, the top seed, broke the hearts of the host nation. He beat Vladimir Samsonov, the no.5 seed, in five games (10-12, 11-6, 16-14, 12-10, 11-7).

“It was very intense match; the second and third games were very important. I had to be focused on each ball. Quite simply, when Samsonov is playing like he did today, he can beat anyone. It was important for me to stay calm, not to crack under pressure. He went after each ball with full strength, you cannot be any mistakes. The home crowd gave him strength. There was lot to think about but most important I had to stay focused.” Timo Boll

“I am happy I managed to get over my injury. Now I am very happy the way I play. Tomorrow I will give my best to reach the place in the Olympics.” Kou Lei

Progress as predicted for Timo Boll  (Photo: Rémy Gros)


Both the men’s singles and women’s singles events will be played to a conclusion on Wednesday 26th June.

Quotes of the Day

Minsk 2019 2nd European Games: Quotes of the Day (Saturday 22nd June)
Minsk 2019 2nd European Games: Quotes of the Day (Sunday 23rd June)
Minsk 2019 2nd European Games: Quotes of the Day (Monday 24th June)
Minsk 2019 2nd European Games: Quotes of the Day (Tuesday 25th June)


Minsk 2019 2nd European Games – Table Tennis: Latest Results


Minsk 2019 European Games – Table Tennis: Qualification Procedure
Minsk 2019 European Games – Table Tennis: Schedule of Play


Minsk 2019 European Games – Table Tennis: Seeding – Men’s Singles
Minsk 2019 European Games – Table Tennis: Seeding – Women’s Singles
Minsk 2019 European Games – Table Tennis: Seeding – Mixed Doubles

Minsk 2019 European Games – Table Tennis: Special Team Ranking Men (December 2018)
Minsk 2019 European Games – Table Tennis: Special Team Ranking Women (December 2018)

2019 European Games Timo Boll Jonathan Groth Han Ying Tomislav Pucar Kou Lei Yang Xiaoxin Fu Yu Ni Xia Lian

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