by Ian Marshall, Editor
Stand tall Austria’s Robert Gardos, the player who celebrated, or perhaps acknowledged is a better description, his 41st birthday on Thursday 16th January.
In the third round of proceedings, he accounted for Frenchman Alexandre Cassin, succeeding in seven games (10-12, 10-12, 11-8, 12-10, 11-9, 10-12, 11-5). Alexandre Cassin is only 21 years old and is listed at no.206 on the current world rankings, Robert Gardos stands at no.36; nothing stunning in that win.
However, note the name that Alexandre Cassin, crowned European Youth champion in 2014 and 2016, beat in the opening round; he overcame Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, the no.10 seed and a player who needs no introduction whatsoever. Alexandre Cassin prevailed in five games (11-1, 12-10, 7-11, 11-4, 12-10).
Now that is where this year, the year in which Vladimir Samsonov will celebrate his 44th birthday, matters are very different. The former World Cup winner, European champion and more cannot buy a win.
At the ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament in Gondomar he experienced defeat in his one and only match, against Hungary he was beaten by Mence Majoros. Later at the ITTF World Tour German Open, in his opening contest he was beaten by China’s Xu Chenhao, at the CCB Europe Top 16 it was the same fate, he lost to Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic.
Compare those results with Robert Gardos. At the ITTF World Team Qualification Tournament he was the one winner in 3-2 loss to Serbia, he beat both Dimitrije Levajac and Marco Jevtovic; in fact he was the only player to beat the on fire Dimitrije Levajac!
In form in Gondomar, it was the same in Montreux at the CCB Europe Top 16, for the first time in his career he gained a place on the podium in the renowned tournament. He beat Denmark’s Jonathan Groth and Sweden’s Mattias Falck, before losing at the semi-final stage to the champion elect, Germany’s Timo Boll. Defeat but there was consolation, he overcame Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar to gain third place.
Most certainly Robert Gardos is in form; that form is being maintained in Budapest. In the qualifying rounds he beat Serbia’s Zsolt Peto, Portugal’s Diogo Chen and Sweden’s Anton Källberg, before in the opening round causing a major upset by ousting Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting, the no.7 seed.
To date at open international tournaments this year, other than Timo Boll, there is only one player against whom Robert Gardos has experienced defeat.
The player who has proved his nemesis has been a compatriot of Timo Boll. He lost to Qiu Dang in the final preliminary round at the ITTF World Tour German Open and in the opening round at the ITTF Challenge Plus Portugal Open.
Has an Englishman done Robert Gardos a favour? Liam Pitchford beat Qiu Dang in round two.
The door is open, opportunity knocks, opportunity knocks for the bright young veteran.