by Simon Daish
In 2019, eliminated by Greek defender Panagiotis Gionis at the first hurdle of the CCB Europe Top 16 Cup, Mattias Falck fared much better at the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open but was still left disappointed as he missed out on the top step of the podium, losing to Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yun-Ju.
Aa point to prove Falck travelled to Doha in search of a confidence boosting performance at the 2019 Qatar Open and did he impress: seeded 11th for the event, Falck started his campaign with six game victories over China’s Zhao Qihao and Belgium’s Cédric Nuytinck before going on to claim a huge 4-3 upset win against Japanese teenage superstar Tomokazu Harimoto. Falck’s journey was eventually brought to a halt in the semi-finals with his conqueror, China’s Lin Gaoyuan, finishing in the runners up spot.
Buoyed by his commendable display in Doha, Falck began to play with the wind in his sail and just one month later went on an incredible run at the Liebherr 2019 ITTF World Championships in Budapest where he became the first Swede to reach the final in 22 years!
On Monday 27th January 2020, Falck was honoured at the Swedish Sports Awards with his name topping the “Best Achievement of the Year” category for 2019.
Indifferent start to year
However, Falck hasn’t made the start to the year that he would have been hoping for, struggling to rediscover his top form. At the opening ITTF World Tour event of the year, the 2020 German Open, Falck was a shock round one casualty to German qualifier Benedikt Duda and one week later at the CCB 2020 Europe Top 16 Cup defeat to Austria’s Robert Gardos signalled a second round exit.
Present on the entry list for the upcoming 2020 Qatar Open, Falck heads to Doha as the highest seeded European player on display at no.7. Expectations will be high and there’s an excellent opportunity to leave a lasting impact.
Jan Ove-Waldner is the only Swedish player to reach the men’s singles final at an open international tournament in Doha; on the first occasion when the event was a member of the ITTF World Tour tournament, he emerged the winner in 1997. Meanwhile, Belarus’ Vladimir Samsonov is only European player to have secured the title in past decade, he succeeded in 2015.
Lofty targets indeed but Falck achieved a top four finish at last year’s event, so it’s only natural to presume that his eyes will be firmly fixed on the next rung of the ladder?
The Qatar Open proved a pivotal step for Falck in 2019 and a repeat of last year’s performance would surely do Falck’s confidence a world of good for the rest of 2020!