26 Jan 2020

Serbia and Slovenia alongside Hong Kong China emerged the surprise outfits to gain men’s team places in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games when play concluded on Sunday 26th January at the ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament in Gondomar, Portugal.

In the counterpart women’s event the outfit to secure a precious booking contrary to status was DPR Korea.

Unquestionably Serbia was the biggest surprise. They commenced play the no.27 seeds; for Slovenia, less so, they were the no.11 seeds. Hong Kong China started the no.10 seeds as did DPR Korea.

Leading outfits

Otherwise, in a tournament where nine places were available in each of the men’s team and women’s team events plus success also meaning two reservations for team members in the singles events; predominantly, the leading outfits secured their places in Tokyo.

In the men’s event Korea Republic, the top seeds, fulfilled expectations as did the next in line, Chinese Taipei, Sweden and France. Likewise, Portugal, the no.8 seeds and Croatia, the no.9 seeds, emerged successful. The notable teams to miss out were India, the no.5 seeds, followed in the order of merit by Austria and Great Britain.

Meanwhile, in the women’s event, the top eight teams all gained Tokyo 2020 places.

It was a successful venture for Hong Kong China, the top seeds, as it was for those next on the list. Chinese Taipei, Singapore, Korea Republic, Romania and Austria all secured their tickets to the Japanese capital city. Similarly Hungary and Poland, the teams which concluded the top eight names, progressed. The selection to fall short was Ukraine who started play, the no.9 seeds.

Long route

Success for Korea Republic in the women’s event but it was by the long route. In the round of the last 16, the round that determined eight places, they suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of DPR Korea and thus had to join the remaining seven teams who had experienced defeat, in the contest for the one remaining position.

They accounted for Ukraine in the second stage quarter-final, before overcoming Spain, the no.14 seeds and France, the no.18 seeds, to secure the precious ninth spot.

Star names

Star of the show for Korea Republic was 15 year old Shin Yubin. She played in every fixture; always she partnered Choi Hyojoo in the doubles, losing just one match when, against DPR Korea, being beaten by Kim Nam Hae and Cha Hyo Sim (7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 12-10).

Otherwise the record was unblemished; she remained unbeaten in singles matches.

Also for Poland, Natalia Partyka attracted the attention, not necessarily because of her performance in Gondomar; for the fourth consecutive time, starting in Beijing in 2008, she will compete in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

It is a record unequalled by any athlete in any sport.

Hero of the hour

Names to note but if there was a name to note, it was 18 year old Dimitrije Levajac; he was the hero of the hour as Serbia confounded all predictions. Not a win to his name on the 2019 ITTF World Tour, losing in the opening preliminary round on each of his three appearances, listed at a lowly no.397 on the current world rankings, he played on a whole new planet.

Against Austria, in the opening round, in the vital decisive fifth match, he kept his nerve to beat Stefan Fegerl in a nail-biting duel (12-10, 1-11, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9); then in the second round, the decisive round, he repeated the feat.

Facing Hong Kong, China, after accounting for Ho Kwan Kit (11-6, 9-11, 11-1, 8-11, 11-6), the overall fixture score level, in the crucial fifth match he recorded the biggest upset of the whole tournament. He beat Wong Chun Ting (11-9, 8-11, 10-12, 11-3, 11-6), presently listed at no.19 on the world rankings and as high is no.8 some nine months ago in April.


Similarly, Slovenia, the no.11 seeds, had a star name; 21 year old Darko Jorgic; in the crucial last 16 contest against India, he overcame both Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (11-9, 12-10, 11-3) and Sharath Kamal Achanta (10-12, 11-7, 12-10, 11-8) in a 3-1 success.

Meanwhile for Hong Kong China, it was the long route. Required to compete in the second stage, the no.10 seeds, they recorded a 3-1 win against Poland, before securing a 3-0 success against Hungary, the no.17 seeds, to book their place in the final.

Opposing the Czech Republic, the no.16 seeds, a 3-0 success was the margin of victory; the Tokyo reservation was confirmed.

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