by Simon Daish
Undeniably one of the all-time greats, German legend Timo Boll more often than not enjoys his time spent at the Europe Top 16 Cup competition and this year’s event in Montreux proved no exception. Negotiating contests against Kristian Karlsson, Liam Pitchford and Robert Gardos, 38-year-old Boll then added surprise finalist Darko Jorgic to the list to once again take the plaudits. Boll has now won the title seven times, equalling another table tennis icon in retired Swedish star Jan-Ove Waldner.
Claiming her first ITTF Africa Cup women’s singles gold back in 2011 and then her second three years later, Egypt’s Dina Meshref has progressed to dominate ever since making it seven title wins in a row with another outstanding performance at the 2020 edition of the event in Tunis. Prevailing over Nigeria’s Offiong Edem in the final, Meshref has now emerged as champion on eight occasions, six times more than her closest rival!
Showing his ruthless side from start to finish at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Hungarian Open, Tomokazu Harimoto was simply majestic in Budapest. Dropping just three games throughout the entirety of the men’s singles draw, Japan’s Harimoto brushed aside Dimitrij Ovtcharov in straight games before going on to claim revenge for his defeat to Yukiya Uda at the 2020 All-Japan National Championships.
Winner of the junior and cadet girls’ singles titles at the 2020 Czech Junior and Cadet Open in Hodonín, 11-year-old Miwa Harimoto was just as sharp at the 2020 Swedish Junior and Cadet Open, part of the Safir International in Örebro, finishing runner-up in the Elite class women’s singles event as well as taking home silverware in the Under 21 women’s singles and cadet girls’ singles categories.
Very much a shining beacon of hope of Kazakh table tennis, Kirill Gerassimenko continues to live up to the hype and was a man amongst the headlines at the 2020 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open in Grenada. Surpassing his previous best semi-final finishes achieved at the 2017 Polish and 2018 Thailand Opens, Gerassimenko came out on top against top seeded Benedikt Duda in the final to hand Kazakhstan its first-ever men’s singles title!
Making a name for himself at the 2020 Para Polish Open, Ireland’s Colin Judge was one of the standout competitors in Wladyslawowo with two unanticipated title successes. The no.4 seed in the men’s singles class 3, Judge beat top seed Maciej Nalepka and Kim Jinsung on his way to glory and also partnered Israel’s Shmuel Ben Asor to victory in the men’s team class 3 event.
Like Colin Judge, Michela Brunelli also caught the eye in Wladyslawowo with her outstanding efforts. Brunelli outperformed expectations in the women’s singles class 2-3 category as the unseeded Italian player beat Japan’s Yukimi Chada to claim a silver medal finish. Brunelli upset the odds yet again in the women’s team class 2-5 event, combining with Carlotta Ragazzini to see off Croatia’s Andela Muzinic and Helena Dretar in the final.
Having to wait until the 12th stop to land women’s singles gold on the 2019 ITTF World Tour, Mima Ito has been much quicker to the mark this time out with the Japanese teenager emerging victorious in Budapest. Relatively untroubled on her way to the final top seed Ito displayed nerves of steel in the all-important title decider against Cheng I-Ching, showing an incredible level of maturity to recover from 2-3 down on games and 2-7 on points to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
Another German making the list of nominations, February was a special month for Qiu Dang as he celebrated his first-ever men’s singles title success on the international stage. Seeded 20th at the 2020 ITTF Challenge Plus Portugal Open, Qiu survived four full distance thrillers, including his meeting with Ukraine’s Yevhen Pryshchepa in the final itself, to stand atop the medals podium in Lisbon.
Defending her women’s singles crown at the CCB 2020 Europe Top 16 Cup, Germany’s Petrissa Solja once again emerged queen of the crop in Montreux as she lifted the trophy for the second year running. Battling past Natalia Partyka, Elizabeta Samara and Margaryta Pesotska, Solja secured gold with victory over Britt Eerland at the final hurdle. Solja, who was seeded second for the event, has now appeared in the final on three of the past four editions of the tournament!
Austrian stalwart Robert Gardos enjoyed a terrific month on the international scene with notable outings in Montreux and Budapest. Going one further than fellow countryman Daniel Habesohn achieved in 2019, Gardos toppled 2018 bronze medallist Jonathan Groth, top seed Mattias Falck and Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar on his way to a bronze medal finish in Montreux, his first ever podium finish at the prestigious tournament. The following week in Budapest, Gardos reached the men’s singles quarter-finals having eliminated Hong Kong China’s Wong Chun Ting in round one.
At just 11 years old, Syria’s Hend Zaza turned heads at the West Asia Olympic Qualification tournament, defying the odds with her women’s singles title win in Amman. Zaza’s incredible feat carried further significance as she became the first Syrian table tennis player to qualify for the Olympic Games! New heights for Zaza and Syrian table tennis as a whole and undoubtedly a bright future ahead for both.
Who is your pick for player of the month?