by Ian Marshall Editor
The previous day both João Monteiro and Diogo Carvalho had departed proceedings in round two, one round earlier Diogo Chen had disappeared from view; eyes very much focused on Tiago Apolonia, Marcos Freitas not on duty, he was the leading Portuguese name remaining.
Contrary to expectations, the no.6 seed, he suffered an agonising third round defeat at the hands of Ukraine qualifier, Yevhen Pryshchepa (7-11, 11-6, 11-4, 14-16, 11-5, 8-11, 11-9); the spotlight fell on the forehead of João Geraldo. The young man responded, the no.32 seed, he beat Finland’s Benedek Olah, the no.29 seed (15-13, 12-10, 4-11, 11-8, 11-2), before in the quarter-final round ousting Chinese Taipei’s qualifier Feng Yi-Hsin a most authoritative manner. He won in straight games (11-8, 11-7, 16-14, 11-8).
Overcoming a qualifier may not appear a noteworthy victory but he was the player who had ended the hopes of João Monteiro in round two in straight games (15-13, 11-7, 11-3, 11-5) and had then issued similar treatment to Japan’s Yukiya Uda, the no.7 seed (11-6, 13-11, 3-11, 11-7, 11-6). He had proved himself most adept against two left handers, when it came to a third he was beaten convincingly.
Adept against left handers, the mind wandered back to the 2012 ITTF World Junior Circuit Finals in the Central American city of Guatemala. On that occasion João Geraldo beat Singapore’s Xin Zhaoxu, Egypt’s Aly Ghallab, Brazil’s Vitor Ishiy and Chinese Taipei’s Lee Chia-Sheng to reach the final. In the title decider, 17 years old at the time, he was never in serious contention against a left hander who proved far too fast; Japan’s Masataka Morizono hardly gave João Geraldo time to draw breath.
Now fast forward eight years; times change. In Lisbon Masataka Morizono departed proceedings in round two, João Geraldo is in the semi-finals.
Now can he go further? Surely he has a good advisor ready in his efforts to advance, a certain Tiago Apolonia, in the penultimate round he meets Yevhen Pryshchepa.
Success in the men’s singles rather overshadowed the men’s doubles performance in partnership with Diogo Carvalho.
Earlier in the day the no.6 seeds, duo had ended the hopes of Russia’s Sadi Ismailov and Denis Ivonin (11-8, 11-6, 11-7), prior to overcoming the no.2 seeds, the partnership formed by Hungary’s Nandor Ecseki and the Czech Republic’s Tomas Polansky (13-11, 11-9, 11-8). Korea Republic’s Baek Kwangil and Park Chan-Hyeok await in the final.
Progress to the semi-final stage of a men’s singles event was the icing on the cake, the first time on either the ITTF World Tour or at an ITTF Challenge Series tournament.
Now João Geraldo is knocking on the door; in the past decade and more, the first team Portuguese selection has been Tiago Apolonia, Marcos Freitas and João Monteiro,
At the forthcoming Hana Bank 2020 ITTF World Team Championships could that change?