by Simon Daish
Here’s a look at some the big names hoping to lead the host nation to glory:
If there’s one Swedish player who has stood out above the rest this year it is surely Mattias Falck. Semi-finalist at the highly prestigious 2019 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open; however, it was Falck’s performance at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest that really caused a stir as he became the first Swede to reach the men’s singles final since Jan-Ove Waldner in 1997!
A national hero, following his incredible display at the World Championships, expect Falck to receive a very warm welcome in Stockholm. Expectations are high for sixth seed Falck, who made it all the way to the penultimate round at this very event last year.
Another man who has the potential to go far in Stockholm, Kristian Karlsson actually possesses an admirable record at the Swedish Open: Karlsson’s personal best finish at the tournament came in 2015, reaching the semi-finals on that occasion. Also, he was impressive at last year’s event where he achieved a quarter-final finish.
The fourth placed man at the Liebherr 2016 Men’s World Cup and a semi-finalist at the Liebherr 2018 European Championships, however, despite making a strong start to the year with a top eight finish at the CCB 2019 Europe Top 16 Cup, this will be only Karlsson’s second appearance in men’s singles main draw action on the 2019 ITTF World Tour. What better place to make a statement then on home soil?
Leading the Swedish contingent in the women’s singles is none other than Matilda Ekholm, who is set for yet another Swedish Open appearance.
Eight-time winner of the Swedish National Championships crown, Ekholm was been present amongst the top 16 finishers in 2013 and 2017 and is looking pull off the feat for a third time at next week’s event. Ekholm’s personal best result on the ITTF World Tour was a silver medal finish at the 2017 ITTF World Tour India Open – how far can she go in Stockholm?
Crowned Swedish national champion against the odds and enjoying upwards movement in the women’s world rankings list for seven months on the trot, Linda Bergström’s progress in the 2019 season is there for all to see. In Stockholm she has an opportunity to take yet another step in the right direction.
Securing a top 16 finish at the 2017 ITTF Challenge Polish Open, but Bergström has yet to experience anything beyond the round of 32 in ITTF World Tour women’s singles action. Seeded 16th and guaranteed a spot in the main event, just one victory is required to take Bergström over the line.
The hosts will also have plenty of representation in the two-day qualification tournament where an opportunity to join the seeded quartet in the main draw awaits.
Jon Persson was simply superb at the recent Liebherr 2019 European Championships, beating the likes of Liam Pitchford and Marcos Freitas in Nantes and will be looking for similar levels of success in front of the Swedish fans. However, first he must negotiate the qualification stages in Stockholm as must Anton Källberg and Truls Moregard, two players who are surely destined for great things down the line.
Two names in particular stand out for Team Sweden in the hunt for women’s singles qualification with two exciting young prospects in Filippa Bergand and Christina Källberg perhaps carrying the host nation’s best chance of progressing to the main event. Bergand and Källberg possess plenty of talent and are very much the future of Swedish table tennis – could we see one or maybe even both players join Matilda Ekholm and Linda Bergström in the women’s singles draw?