22 Jan 2020

Neither nation having ever secured a place in a team event at an Olympic Games but at the 2020 ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament in Gondomar a realistic chance; a tension packed contest was to be anticipated.

On the evening of Wednesday 22nd January, it proved to be the scenario in the opening round as Slovenia recorded a 3-1 win against Iran.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Fielding the trio comprising Darko Jorgic, Deni Kozul and Bojan Tokic, Slovenia arguably started as favourites, they occupied the no.11 seeded position.

Bojan Tokic, who celebrated his 39th birthday on Monday 13th January, provided the experience, Darko Jorgic, 21 years of age, the 2018 Mediterranean Games champion was very much the young man to note, having risen from no.59 on the world rankings one year ago to a current no.40. Deni Kozul was ever improving and on the ITTF World Tour had formed a meaningful doubles partnership with Darko Jorgic.

Moreover, the Slovenia outfit had more than good reason to possess an air of confidence; against the odds they had finished in the bronze medal position at the Liebherr 2017 European Team Championships in Luxembourg.

Notable titles

Conversely, the Iranian line-up comprising Noshad Alamiyan, Nima Alamian and Hamidreza Taherkhani occupied the no.20 seeded, nine places lower but in the brothers they possessed two of the most dangerous players in the whole tournament.

Both have ITTF World Tour men’s singles titles to their credit; Noshad Alamiyan won in 2012 in Morocco, Nima Alamian three years later in Belgium. It is a feat, despite their consistent presence at open international tournaments, no member of the Slovenian team has ever achieved.

Simply the seeding counted for naught.

Close doubles win

Deni Kozul and Darko Jorgic gave Slovenia the ideal start by beating Hamidreza Takerkhani and Nima Alamian, a pair with less international experience as a partnership, the tension was evident; a five games success was the outcome (10-12, 11-4, 8-11, 11-9, 11-8).

Immediately, Iran responded, Noshad Alamiyan overcame Bojan Tokic in four games (11-9, 11-2, 8-11, 11-3), before Darko Jorgic underlined the progress made in the past 12 months by beating Nima Alimian in four games (11-6, 9-11, 11-9, 11-4).

Tension showed

Slovenia ahead, Bojan Tokic faced Hamidreza Takerkhani, it was in that contest the tension showed.

On the present men’s world rankings, Bojan Tokic is named at no.62, Hamidreza Takerkhani is nowhere to be seen. Surely, the odds were massively in favour of the Slovenian but Olympic Games qualification was at stake.

The contest went the full distance, in the fifth game, Bojan Tokic established a 5-1 lead, surely he would now relax somewhat and steam to victory; it didn’t happen. Hamidreza Takerkhani stuck to his shirt tails like glue, he levelled at 7-all before going ahead 8-7. Bojan Tokic, won the next four points, he held two more before, when trailing 11-12 being required to save the day.

Serving continually from the middle of the table with his backhand to nullify the angles gained from the backhand of his left handed opponent, the next three points were secured, victory for Slovenia.

In the balance

Just one point from a fifth match being required; one wonders what the outcome may have been, Deni Kozul was due to face Noshad Alamiyan.

On the men’s world rankings, Deni Kozul is listed at no.104, Noshad Alamiyan at no.63; surely the Iranian the clear favourite. However, on their one previous meeting, the first round of the men’s singles event at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships, Deni Kozul had prevailed in five games.

We’ll never know but one wonders; in the balance.

2020 ITTF World Team Qualification Event Darko Jorgic Bojan Tokic Deni Kozul

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Day 5 - 2020 ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament

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