16 Feb 2020

Most impressive and somewhat contrary to expectations, on Saturday 15th February, Emmanuel Lebesson and Yuan Jia Nan won the mixed doubles title at the 2020 ITTF Challenge Plus Portugal Open in Lisbon.

A landmark occasion for France, perhaps not amongst their greatest achievements but in age when the event has increased in importance, being included in the Olympic Games, a significant milestone.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

It was the first time the country had provided a mixed doubles finalist since the competition returned to the open international tournament scene in 2018; significantly France provided both, Tristan Flore and Laura Gasnier were the runners up.

The win recorded by Emmanuel Lebesson and Yuan Jia Nan was not a major upset, they commenced play the no.5 seeds, they were outsiders but not rank outsiders; the notable fact was the way they won.

They were never extended the full five match distance; in fact they surrendered just two games in the whole journey.

  • Round One: Aliaksandr Khanin / Daria Trigolos (Belarus) 11-5, 11-5, 11-6
  • Quarter-Final: Lubomir Pistej / Barbora Balazova (Slovakia) 12-10, 11-8, 8-11, 11-4
  • Semi-Final: Aleksandar Karakasevic / Izabela Lupulesku (Serbia) 11-4, 4-11, 11-7, 11-7
  • Final: Tristan Flore / Laura Gasnier (France) 12-10, 11-7, 11-3

A quarter-final win against Lubomir Pistej and Barbora Balazova was a success to note; one of the most tried and trusted combinations of the current era, they were the top seeds. Furthermore, in December they had emerged the winners at the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus, Benemax-Virgo North American Open in Markham.

Master of the art

Furthermore, any mixed doubles partnership that involves Aleksandar Karakasevic is one of note, the now 44 year old is renowned for the incredible feeling he possesses when returning the ball; China’s Xu Xin might be regarded as the greatest doubles player of the modern era but in the past two decades the Serbian has proved worthy of that accolade, especially when mixed doubles is the subject under discussion.

Partnering Lithuania’s Ruta Paskauskiene, commencing in 2000 in Bremen at the European Championships, the duo won the mixed doubles title on four occasions

Same combination

Aleksandar Karakasevic is left handed, Ruta Paskauskiene right handed and that is the formula which works for France; in the French scenario the man possessing a lethal forehand, the woman excelling when playing with control close to the table.

It worked at the 1990 European Championships in Gothenburg when Jean-Philippe Gatien and Wang-Drechou Xiaoming won the mixed double title at the expense of Jean-Michel Saive and Gabriella Wirth. Earlier, it had also worked at the 1997 World Championships in Birmingham when Jacques Secretin and Claude Bergeret joined forces. In the final they beat Tokio Tasaka and Sachiko Yokota in a match that lasted a mere 24 minutes!

Now in 2020, the formula continues to work, Emmanuel Lebesson and Yuan Jia Nan keep traditions alive.

Challenge Series 2020 Portugal Open Emmanuel Lebesson Yuan Jia Nan

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Day 3 - 2020 ITTF Challenge Plus Portugal Open