by Ian Marshall, Editor
He leads Greece in the men’s event at the forthcoming ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament to be staged in Gondomar, Portugal from Wednesday 22nd to Sunday 26th January; he lines up alongside Giorgos Konstantinopoulos, Konstantinos Konstantinopoulos and Ioannis Sgouropoulos.
Very much in their bid to gain one of the precious nine places available for the men’s team event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Greece looks to the combination of youth and experience. Giorgos Konstantinopoulos 26 years old and Konstantinos Konstantinopoulos, one year younger, both competed in the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest but have yet to make their mark on the international scene.
Panagiotis Gionis and 19 year old Ioannis Sgouropoulos have made their mark.
Style of play
A World Championships debut in 1997 in Manchester, Panagiotis Gionis has been the one European born player to effectively adopt the style so superbly promoted by China’s Chen Xinhua, Ding Song and more recently Korea Republic’s Joo Saehyuk; that of backspin play combined with a lethal forehand top spin.
It is a style that has enabled him to become a most consistent performer; in January 2010 he stood at no.43 on the men’s world, now in January 2020 he is named at no.46, the career high being no.18 in November 2014.
Most importantly techniques employed have brought notable success; especially when competing in Zagreb! In 2016 when part of the ITTF World Tour, he reached men’s singles quarter-final at the Croatian Open, before when becoming a Challenge Series tournament winning in both 2017 and 2018.
Significant results but note his performance at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships; in the second round he ended the hopes of Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju, a star name in the past 12 months having risen to no.6 on the world rankings following wins to his credit against the likes of China’s Ma Long and Fan Zhendong.
Meanwhile, for Ioannis Sgouropoulos, in recent years he has progressed through the ranks to become one of the old continent’s most promising teenagers. In 2017 in Guimarães he won the junior boys’ singles title at the European Youth Championships, before the following year in Cluj Napoca retaining the title.
Success in consecutive years and in 2019, the pattern followed, in March he won the men’s singles title at the Butterfly 2019 European Under 21 Championships; the city, Gondomar, a good omen for Greece?