by Simon Daish
… There’s only one place to start and that is with Cristian Pletea. He defied the odds to cause what will surely go down as one of the biggest upsets of the men’s singles campaign in Olomouc. The Romanian qualifier summoned his inner warrior, fighting back from a 1-3 deficit to defeat top seed and 2017 Czech Open champion Tomokazu Harimoto in a seven-game thriller (3-11, 7-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7).
… Another high seeded Japanese player was also halted in round one as fifth seed Koki Niwa fell at the hands of Portugal’s Marcos Freitas. Establishing an early lead in the match but Niwa failed to pick up another game (4-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-4, 15-13). Freitas continued his fine run of form following on from his semi-finals finish at last week’s 2019 Bulgaria Open.
… Following a two month absence from the ITTF World Tour German legend Timo Boll enjoyed a positive return to the international stage, opening his 2019 Czech Open account with a 4-2 victory against China’s Xia Yizheng (11-7, 11-7, 11-13, 11-4, 9-11, 11-8).
… Belarus’ Vladimir Samsonov and Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov won their respective encounters against Ruwen Filus (10-12, 11-9, 11-7, 11-8, 11-5) and Xue Fei (11-5, 13-11, 9-11, 3-11, 13-11, 11-5) to set up a direct head-to-head meeting against one another in round two. Day one closed out with a surprise exit for no.11 seed Wong Chun Ting. He lost out to Chinese qualifier Ma Te (11-8, 7-11, 11-6, 11-7, 12-10).
… Cheers rang out from the home crowd in Olomouc as Czech star Hana Matelova progressed beyond the women’s singles round of 32 for the first time on home soil. The no.16 seeded player faced a tricky customer in Kim Hayeong but calmly dispatched of her Korean opponent across six games (11-8, 11-9, 10-12, 11-4, 4-11, 12-10).
… The player responsible for arguably the upset of the round was Liu Weishan. Falling behind early to Japanese no.12 seed Miyu Kato the Chinese qualifier continued to persist, turning the match on its head with four consecutive game wins to sail through to the next stage of play (5-11, 13-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-4).
… Top seed Kasumi Ishikawa almost joined Miyu Kato in suffering an opening round exit but in the end came good. She recovered from 1-2 and then 2-3 down to see off Chinese Taipei opponent Cheng Hsien-Tzu 4-3 (11-7, 7-11, 8-11, 11-2, 6-11, 11-1, 11-2).
… For those of you looking for inspirational never give up examples then look no further than Austria’s Sofia Polcanova, who turned her back on what looked to be an inevitable defeat. Losing out to Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu in the opening three games, the tenth seed responded by claiming the next four games in a row to steal the win (7-11, 9-11, 6-11, 11-6, 13-11, 12-10, 11-8).
… The mixed doubles title won’t be heading to the top seeded pair of Lee Sangsu and Jeon Jihee after the Korea Republic combination were dealt a surprise opening round blow by China’s Ma Te and Wu Yang (6-11, 11-6, 11-6, 10-12, 13-11).
… Amazingly we also lost the second seeds from the race on day one as the experienced Slovak Republic duo of Lubomir Pistej and Barbora Balazova failed to hold off the young Germans Qiu Dang and Nina Mittelham in a tight full distance affair (11-8, 6-11, 11-5, 4-11, 15-13).
… The women’s doubles event also saw the top seeded pair depart. Miyuu Kihara and Miyu Nagasaki bid their farewells: despite their best efforts the exciting young stars from Japan couldn’t find a way past Chinese counterparts Gu Yuting and Mu Zi (11-9, 9-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-9), who were crowned champions only last weekend at the 2019 Bulgaria Open.
… Puerto Rico’s Adriana and Melanie Diaz carried plenty of confidence into their opening doubles fixture in Olomouc, following their gold medal success at the recent 2019 Pan American Games. However, it wasn’t to be their day as Korea Republic’s Kim Hayeong and Lee Eunhye proved too strong for the Latin American stars on this occasion (9-11, 11-5, 11-6, 11-3).
… While the top two seeds avoided an early slip-up, the partnership seeded directly below in third, Chen Chien-An and Chuang Chih-Yuan, did fall at the opening hurdle, missing out on an excellent opportunity: leading by two games but the Chinese Taipei players didn’t convert their advantage , leaving China’s Zhao Zihao and Zhu Linfeng to capitalise (11-13, 5-11, 11-5, 15-13, 11-9).
… Liebherr 2019 World Championships medallists Tiago Apolonia and João Monteiro are also out, suffering a 3-2 loss at the hands of Hungarian fourth seeds Nandor Ecseki and Adam Szudi (5-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-4, 11-5).