06 Feb 2020

Surprise names progressing to the main draw, surprise names securing first places in their respective groups; there were no shortages of upsets as play in the qualification stage of the 2020 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open in Granada progressed to a conclusion on Wednesday 5th February.

Topping the list was the Czech Republic’s 18 year old, Zdena Blaskova.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Listed at no.651 on the current world rankings and the lowest rated player in her women’s singles group, the teenager ended matters unbeaten and at the top of the order.

After on the opening day of play accounting for Kazakhstan’s Anastassiya Lavrova (14-12, 11-4, 11-7), she concluded her itinerary by overcoming Chinese Taipei’s Kuo Chia-Yun. Presently, Kuo Chia-Yun, who last year when the tournament was held in Guadalajara, progressed to the second round, is listed at no.627 on the world rankings. Anastassiya Lavrova is named at no.172; more significantly she was the highest ranked player on duty in the women’s singles event.

Second place in the group for Kuo Chia-Yun (Photo: Alvaro Diaz)


Alas for Anastassiya Lavrova, in a competition where first and second positions in each of the 16 groups meant progress to the main draw, there was no place for the 24 year old; on the opening day of action she had experienced defeat the hands of Kuo Chia-Yun (13-11, 11-7, 5-11, 11-6).

Unexpected first positions

Progress to the main draw after having started play the third highest rated, it was the same for Romania’s Elena Zaharia, Chinese Taipei’s Lin Po-Hsuan and India’s Mallika Bhandarkar; meanwhile for the Japanese duo of Fuwa Yumoto and Yura Shinohara, the measure of progress was even greater. They commenced matters as the fourth highest listed.

Surprise main draw places without defeat; for Darya Kisel of Belarus, Italy’s Veronica Mosconi and Romania’s Tania Plaian, the end result was also success not predicted, the journey rather different.

Progress for Darya Kisel (Photo: Alvaro Diaz)


Each commenced matters as the lowest listed in their initial groups, each ended proceedings in second place and thus advanced to the main draw.

First place only option

Similarly, in the men’s singles event, where first position in the group was mandatory in order to gain a main draw place, ten players who began the tournament as the second highest listed, climbed one step higher.

Moldova’s Vladislav Ursu, Korea Republic’s Baek Kwangil and the Czech Republic’s Stanislav Kucera all upset the order to secure first places and a direct entry to the main draw, as did Spain’s Alberto Lillo and Guillermo Martinez alongside Russia’s Maksim Grebnev and Danila Travin.

Later Artur Abusev and Petr Fedotov in addition to Korea Republic’s Park Chan-Hyeok reserved places in the main draw. However, they had to take the long route; a total of 41 groups in the initial stage, they were members of the 18 groups in which first place meant progress to a preliminary round.

The long route but successful for Petr Fedotov (Photo: Alvaro Diaz)


Hard fought contests Artur Abusev duly beat the Czech Republic’s Jiri Martinko (11-6, 9-11, 11-6, 11-4, 11-5), Park Chan-Hyeok overcame Belgium’s Thibaut Darcis (11-7, 9-11, 6-11, 11-4, 11-4), Petr Fedotov ended the hopes of Argentina’s Santiago Lorenzo (11-3, 9-11, 10-12, 11-4, 9-11, 11-6, 11-9).

Life no different

Upsets in the initial phase of the men’s singles event; as the under 21 men’s singles and under 21 women’s singles competitions progressed to the quarter-final round, life was no different.

In the former, Russia’s Maksim Grebnev, Japan’s Hiroto Shinozuka and Germany’s Meng Fanbo all advanced to the last eight contrary to expectations as did Austria’s Maciej Kolodziejczyk.

Meng Fanbo an unexpected quarter-finalist (Photo: Alvaro Diaz)


Pick of the bunch was Meng Fanbo, the no.26 seed. He beat Frenchman, Jules Rolland, the no.3 seed and runner up last year in Guadalajara (11-7, 11-9, 8-11, 11-7), before escaping from the brink of defeat in the fourth game against Japan’s Kakeru Sone, the no.19 seed (9-11, 11-5, 8-11, 17-15, 12-10) to reserve his quarter-final place.

Quarter-Finals (seeded positions in brackets)

  • Maksim Grebnev Russia (36) v Martin Bentancor Argentina (6)
  • Hiroto Shinozuka Japan (12) v Meng Fanbo Germany (26)
  • Denis Ivonin Russia (4) v Nicholas Tio United States (7)
  • Maciej Kolodziejczyk Austria (28) v Rares Sipos Romania (2)


Against the odds

Similarly, against the odds, there were under 21 women’s singles quarter-final reservations for Hungary’s Orsolya Feher and Slovakia’s Natalia Grigelova, as well as for Russia’s Anastasia Kolish and Elizabet Abraamian.

Undoubtedly, Elizabet Abraamian was the player to steal the show; in the opening round she caused a major upset by beating Romania’s Andreea Dragoman, the no.2 seed (11-8, 11-9, 11-8), prior to recovering from a two games to nil deficit to end the aspirations of Singapore’s Goi Rui Xuan, the no.9 seed (9-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 11-9).

Quarter-Finals (seeded positions in brackets)

  • Maki Shiomi Japan (1) v Orsolya Feher Hungary (13)
  • Anastasia Kolish Russia (10) v Mariia Tailakova Russia (4)
  • Adina Diaconu Romania (3) v Tatiania Kukulkova Slovakia (7)
  • Natalia Grigelova Slovakia (16) v Elizabet Abraamian Russia (28)


Elizabet Abraamian caused a major upset by beating Andreea Dragoman (Photo: Alvaro Diaz)


The quarter-finals of the under 21 men’s singles and under 21 women’s singles events will be played on Thursday 6th February, as will the first two rounds of both the men’s singles and women’s singles. Also the men’s doubles and women’s doubles opening rounds will be completed.

Challenge Series 2020 Spanish Open Zdena Blaskova

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Day 3 - 2020 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open