05 Feb 2020

Qualification completed, the names to progress to the main draw at the 2020 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open in Granada are now known; when play concluded on the evening of Wednesday 5th February, the name that stood out from the crowd was that of Russia’s Maksim Grebnev.

He was the one player, male or female, competing in all three possible disciplines who ended the two days unbeaten.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

A place in the men’s doubles concluded the unblemished qualification run; partnering Lev Katsman, after on the opening day having ousted the combination formed by Callum Evans of Wales and Jersey’s Joran Wykes (11-5, 15-13, 11-5), the duo secured progress by overcoming Belgium’s Florian Cnudde and Thibaut Darcis (11-8, 11-8, 11-9).

In the main draw in the opening round they face Egypt’s Youssef Abdel-Aziz and Khalid Assar, the no.4 seeds.


Success and it was very much to be anticipated, Maksim Grebnev and Lev Katsman form a tried and trusted partnership.

Notably they have enjoyed success at the most recent World Junior Championships. In 2018 in Bendigo they reached the boys’ doubles final losing to China’s Xiang Peng and Xu Haidong; more recently some two months ago in Korat, they advanced to the quarter-finals, again suffering at Chinese hands. They were beaten by the champions elect, Liu Yebo and Xu Yingbin.

At this years World Junior Championships, to be staged in the Portuguese town of Guimarães in late November and early December, Maksim Grebnev will have to find a new partner; Lev Katsman has now left the junior ranks.

Worthy performances

However, Maksim Grebnev, who celebrated his 18th birthday on Thursday 9th January, is still a junior, having in recent years enjoyed success on the ITTF World Junior Circuit but without really hitting the heights.

Competing in cadet boys’ singles events in 2016 he was the runner up in France, the following year he experienced the same finish in Sweden and Spain. Last year he was a junior boys’ singles semi-finalist in both Italy and the Czech Republic.

Now could 2020 be the year he climbs higher to reserve the top step of the podium? In Granada he has supplied plenty of evidence.

Closest contest the first

Listed at no.10 on the under 18 boys’ world rankings but at no.734 on the men’s listings, the teenager started his itinerary in the under 21 men’s singles event.

They say “win a close match and confidence blossoms” never was that more true than for Maksim Grebnev; he prevailed in what was to prove his closest contest of the two days. He recovered from a two games to nil deficit to beat Japan’s Jo Yokotani by the very narrowest of decisions (8-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-9).

Moreover, it was a surprise win, on the current under 21 men’s world rankings, Jo Yokotani is listed at no.91, Maksim Grebnev at no.179, a significant gap.

Confidence high, on the second day of action, he beat Uzbekistan’s Abdulaziz Anorboev (11-4, 11-7, 11-5), the shock first round winner against Florian Cnudde, the top seed (11-4, 7-11, 11-9, 11-7), before overcoming a familiar face. He accounted for Lev Katsman, the no.16 seed (11-3, 3-11, 11-6, 15-13) to book his place in the under 21 men’s singles quarter-finals. Argentina’s Martin Bentancor, the no.6 seed, awaits.

Even better

Outstanding in the under 21 men’s singles, the men’s singles performance was even better. In his opening match he beat Spain’s Marc Gutierrez, world ranked no.1091, as expected (4-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-3), before on the second day of action ending the hopes of Denmark’s Tobias Rasmussen, listed at no.215, in a most resounding manner. He prevailed in straight games (11-6, 12-10, 11-6).

Test after test passed; now Maksim Grebnev faces and even tougher test; in the opening round he meets Germany’s Benedikt Duda, the top seed.

It will be the opening match of the tournament for Benedikt Duda and they do say, the first match is the most difficult!

Challenge Series 2020 Spanish Open Maksim Grebnev

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Day 3 - 2020 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open