by Ian Marshall, Editor
Singapore, the no.3 seeds, emerged the only leading team to surrender a single game; they recorded a 3-1 win against Luxembourg, the no.20 seeds.
Otherwise, it was victory without a blip. Korea Republic, the no.4 seeds, overcame Lithuania, the no.30 seeds and now meet DPR Korea, the no.10 seeds, in the round that determines a place in Tokyo. In their opening engagement DPR Korea posted a 3-0 win against Malaysia, the no.29 seeds.
Similarly, Romania, the no.5 seeds, beat Italy, the no.23 seeds; Austria, the no.6 seeds, overcame the Czech Republic, the no.19 seeds. Likewise, Hungary, the no.7 seeds, prevailed against Croatia, the no.28 seeds; Poland, the no.8 seeds, secured victory against Nigeria, the no.27 seeds, the result thus greatly denting the hopes of the latter’s Olufunke Oshonaike achieving a seventh consecutive Olympic Games appearance.
Not to be outdone, Ukraine, the no.9 seeds, ended the hopes of Belgium, the no.24 seeds.
French trio in form
Wins as anticipated but in the opening round of the women’s team event there were upsets of note.
Selecting Stéphanie Loeuillette, Yuan Jia Nan and Laura Gasnier; France, the no.18 seeds, posted a 3-1 win against the no.12 seeds, the Russian combination formed by Olga Vorobeva, Yana Noskova and Polina Mikhailova.
Hard earned success but not to the extent achieved by Belarus, the no.22 seeds. Dramatically, with Nadezhda Bogdanova, Daria Trigolos and Viktoria Pavlovich on duty, a 3-2 win was secured in opposition to the no.15 seeds, Thailand’s Nanthana Komwong, Orawan Paranang and Suthasini Sawettabut.
Mainstay of the victory was 41 year old Viktoria Pavlovich. She beat Suthasini Sawettabut (11-9, 11-8, 15-17, 11-8), before in vital fifth match of the fixture, accounting for Nanthana Komwong (15-13, 11-9, 11-7).
Steadfast from the voice of experience, it was the composed from 19 years of age Nadezhda Bogdanova. In the fourth match of the fixture she saved the day. Belarus, one match away from defeat, she beat Suthasini Sawettabut by the very narrowest of margins (11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 6-11, 16-14) to keep her nation’s hopes alive.
India by a whisker
Progress decided by the narrowest of margins, as the day closed, it was the same for the no.17 seeds, India’s, Manika Batra, Archana Girish Kamath and Ayhika Mukherjee in opposition to the no.16 seeds, the Swedish trio formed by Linda Bergström, Matilda Ekholm and Christina Källberg. A 3-2 win was the verdict.
Manika Batra beat both Linda Bergström (11-4, 6-11, 11-7, 11-7) and Christina Källberg (10-12, 11-7, 9-11, 11-4, 11-7) to set the scene for Archana Girish Kamath.
In the conclusive fifth match, facing Linda Bergström, she duly obliged but only just; in the fifth game she saved one match point before succeeding at the second attempt (11-8, 8-11, 9-11, 11-7, 13-11).
Meanwhile, in the men’s event, it was success for the higher rated teams but there was a close call; the no.16 seeds, the Czech Republic trio comprising Lubomir Jancarik, Tomas Polansky and Pavel Sirucek needed the full five matches to overcome the no.31 seeds, the DPR Korea combination of Kim Ok Chan, An Ji Song and Ham Yu Song.
Hero of the hour was Pavel Sirucek. In the second match of the fixture he beat Ham Yu Song (6-11, 11-7, 2-11, 11-8, 11-6), before in the fifth contest, overcoming Kim Ok Chan (11-8, 11-6, 14-12).
The Czech Republic now meets the top seeds, Korea Republic, 3-0 winners against Russia, the no.19 seeds, to determine a place in Tokyo.
Slovenia and India now meet
Similarly, Slovenia, the no.11 seeds oppose India, the no.5 seeds. Slovenia recorded a 3-1 win against Iran, the no.20 seeds, to reserve their place in the deciding round; India posted a 3-0 success in opposition to Luxembourg, the no.32 seeds.
All remaining fixtures to determine last 16 places in the men’s team event will be held on Thursday 23rd January.