06 Dec 2019

Main draw places the goal, Marko Medjugorac and Chen Hongtao emerged the players to raise the banner for the host nation in the preliminary round of the men’s singles event at the Benemax-Virgo 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus North American Open in Markham on Thursday 5th December.

Both now join colleagues Jeremy Hazin, the no.29 seed and Eugene Wang, the no.32 seed in the main draw.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Victories against most worthy adversaries were the order of proceedings; Marko Medjugorac accounted for Korea Republic’s Yoo Changjae (11-8, 11-1, 9-11, 11-6, 11-2), Chen Hongtao beat Belgium’s Valentin Pieraert (10-12, 6-11, 11-5, 11-4, 7-11, 11-8, 11-3).

Notable performance but the most notable of all came from China, ten of their 12 players required to compete in the qualification round reserved main draw places; the most significant win being the success recorded by Ren Hao. He accounted for Zhang Kai of the United States (12-10, 11-5, 11-3, 11-7), the player, who in September, had ousted Japan’s Koki Niwa in the first round at the ITTF Challenge Plus Paraguay Open.

Impressive from Ren Hao against United States opposition, it was the same from Xiang Peng, the recently crowned world junior champion, he beat Feng Yijun (11-7, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8). Wins in style, it was similar against Canadian opposition. Zhou Kai overcame Tommy Xu (11-4, 11-5, 11-5, 11-3), Zeng Beixun beat Matthew Lehmann (11-9, 11-4, 11-8, 11-5), Zhao Zhaoyan ended the hopes of Terence Young (5-11, 11-0, 11-4, 11-6, 11-7).

Xiang Peng beat Feng Yijun to reserve his place in the main draw (Photo: courtesy of North American Open)
European opposition

Somewhat differently when facing European opposition it was mixed fortunes for China; Sai Linwei beat Laurens Devos (11-7, 12-14, 11-9, 11-3, 11-9), Cao Wei and Cao Yantao both accounted for Spanish opposition. Cao Wei proved too strong for Joan Masip (11-6, 11-4, 11-6, 11-9), Cao Yantao overcame Carlos Franco (11-7, 11-3, 11-1, 11-5).

Conversely, Liang Guodong lost to Italy’s Daniele Pinto (11-7, 11-9, 8-11, 12-10, 5-11, 11-9), Yuan Licen, the junior boys’ singles winner in 2018 at the Oman Junior and Cadet Open, was beaten by Frenchman, Irvin Bertrand (7-11, 7-11, 12-10, 7-11, 9-11, 10-12, 11-6).

Eight wins for China and two more by default; Liu Yebo received a walk-over when due to face Nigeria’s Kehinde Ogidan, Xu Haidong, the predecessor to Xiang Peng as world junior champion, received a bye.

Daniele Pinto responded, he beat Liang Guodong (Photo: Richard Kalocsai)
Opening round completed

Progress to the main draw the goal, in the mixed doubles the target was opening round success and thus a quarter-final place.

Rising to the occasion, India’s Manav Vikash Thakkar and Archana Girish Kamath alongside China’s Zhao Zhaoyan and Liu Xi emerged the pairs to upset the order of merit. Manav Vikash Thakkar and Archana Girish Kamath accounted for Argentina’s Horacio Cifuentes and Camila Arguelles, the no.4 seeds (11-9, 11-7, 11-6); China’s Zhao Zhaoyuan and Liu Xi overcame Italy’s Niagol Stoyanov and Giorgia Piccolin, the no.5 seeds.

Otherwise it was success for the leading pairs; coincidentally for both when facing Russian opposition. Slovakia’s Lubomir Pistej and Barbora Balazova, the top seeds, beat Kirill Skachkov and Olga Vorobeva (11-3, 11-7, 14-16, 12-14, 11-7); similarly in a full distance contest Serbia’s Aleksandar Karakasevic and Izabela Lupulesku, the no.2 seeds, prevailed in opposition to Denis Ivonin and Yana Noskova (5-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-5).

An opening round success for Lubomir Pistej in partnership with Barbora Balazova (Photo: courtesy of North American Open)
Prominent pairs progress

Success in the opening round of the mixed doubles for the most prominent pairs, it was the same in the women’s doubles.

Japan’s Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato, the top seeds, beat the French duo of Nolwenn Fort and Leili Mostafavi without cause for alarm (11-4, 11-4, 11-2); for the combination of Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova and the Czech Republic’s Hana Matelova, life was very different. They came perilously close to defeat; they needed the full five games to beat Liu Juan and Wu Yue of the United States. They emerged the winners by the minimal two point margin in the deciding game (6-11, 11-6, 16-14, 9-11, 12-10).

Eventual success for Barbora Balazova and Hana Matelova; for two further seeded pairs it was a first round exit, defeat at Chinese hands. Japan’s Saki Shibata and Maki Shiomi, the no.3 seeds, lost to Che Xiaoxi and Li Jiayi (11-4, 11-5, 12-14, 11-6), the host nation’s Wang Xinyang and Zhang Mo, the no.8 seeds, experienced defeat when facing Liu Xi and Zhang Qiang (11-3, 11-6, 11-7).

A first round women’s doubles defeat for Maki Shiomi in partnership with Saki Shibata (Photo: courtesy of North American Open)
Host nation defeat

Defeats for seeded pairs, in the first round of the men’s doubles event, there was just one; alas at Canadian expense.

Chen Hongtao and Jeremy Hazin, the no.8 seeds, experienced defeat at the hands of the United States combination formed by Feng Yijun and Zhang Kai (11-5, 11-4, 8-11, 12-10).

Problems for the eighth in line, not for the principal partnerships in the order of merit; Belgium’s Martin Allegro and Florent Lambiet, the top seeds, beat Russia’s Vidan Gadiev and Denis Ivonin (7-11, 11-9, 12-10, 13-11), Brazil’s Eric Jouti and Thiago Monteiro, the no.2 seeds, overcame Frenchmen Bastien Rembert and Jules Rolland (11-9, 11-6, 11-9).

Pain for Jeremy Hazin, partnering Cheng Hongtao, a first round men’s doubles defeat (Photo: courtesy of North American Open)
Finalists known

Opening rounds completed; in both the under 21 men’s singles and under 21 women’s singles events, the finalists are known.

In the former Argentina’s Martin Bentancor, the no.14 seed, meets Manav Vikash Thakkar, the no.2 seed; in the latter Japan’s Maki Shiomi, the top seed, opposes China’s Wang Xiaotong, the no.21 seed.

Maki Shiomi booked her place in the final courtesy of a quarter-final success against Hungary’s Leonie Hartbrich, the no.5 seed (11-3, 12-10, 12-10), followed by a semi-final win against China’s Qi Fei, the no.12 seed (11-8, 9-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-6). In the opposite half of the draw, in the same rounds, Wang Xiaotong ousted colleague Yang Yiyun, the no.22 seed (11-9, 11-7, 11-3) and Russia’s Mariia Tailakova, the no.6 seed (11-9, 11-7, 11-3).

Wang Xiaotong through to the under 21 women’s singles final (Photo: courtesy of North American Open)
Match of the day

Meanwhile, in the under 21 men’s singles event, the player of the day was unquestionably Argentina’s Martin Bentancor, the no.14 seed, at the quarter-final stage he prevailed in a titanic duel against the host nation’s Jeremy Hazin, the no.13 seed (6-11, 11-5, 7-11, 14-12, 14-12), before at the semi-final stage receiving a walk-over when due to face Xiang Peng.

“In the beginning he was blocking a lot, I was playing not so bad tactically; I changed my service and directed my attacks to the middle.” Martin Bentancor

Martin Bentancor shone in an event in which Argentina attracted attention. At the quarter-final stage Santiago Lorenzo, the no.22 seed, beat Liu Yebo, the no.15 seed (11-9, 11-8, 11-9), before losing to India’s Manav Vikash Thakkar, the no.2 seed (11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 11-6). The win for Manav Vikash Thakkar came after one round earlier he had beaten, Horacio Cifuentes, the no.6 seed and also from Argentina (11-5, 11-9, 11-6).

Martin Bentancor beat Jeremy Hazin in the match of the day  (Photo: courtesy of North American Open)


On Friday 6th December, the first and second rounds of the men’s singles and women’s singles events, in addition to the mixed doubles quarter-finals will be played.

Challenge Series 2019 North America Marko Medjugorac Chen Hongtao

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Day 3 - 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Benemax-Virgo North American Open