by Simon Daish
Five key points to take away from the day’s exploits.
Doubles master holds his own
Pulling off arguably the standout achievement of his career last year alongside Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu with their men’s doubles silver medal at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships, Spain’s Alvaro Robles showed on the final day of qualifying in Doha that he can hold his own on the individual scene.
Starting his day with a 4-2 win over Hungarian opponent Bence Majoros (8-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-3, 11-6, 11-3), Robles then preceded to claim a major upset against world no.30 Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (11-9, 6-11, 11-5, 11-9, 11-4) to seal his spot in the men’s singles draw.
World junior champion upstages World Cup star
Miyu Nagasaki stole headlines at the 2019 World Junior Championships when she became the first player from outside of China to take home the girls’ singles title; on Wednesday the Japanese teenager produced another headline grabbing performance, this time at senior level!
Victorious in an all-Japanese meeting against Maki Shiomi in the morning (13-11, 7-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-6), it was Nagasaki’s outing in the third preliminary round of the women’s singles event that really stood out. Facing the Uncle Pop 2019 Women’s World Cup bronze semi-finalist Lily Zhang, Nagasaki showed maturity beyond her years to upstage the United States’ star by a 4-1 margin (11-8, 11-6, 7-11, 11-7, 11-5).
Vladi extracts his revenge
Losing out to France’s Alexandre Cassin in one of the big upsets of last month’s ITTF World Tour event in Budapest, Vladimir Samsonov claimed his revenge in Doha on a very positive day for the Belarusian legend.
Just as in their previous encounter only five games were required; only this time fortune favoured the 2015 Qatar Open champion (9-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-4, 11-3). Later in the day Samsonov also outclassed China’s Zhou Yu (11-7, 9-11, 11-8, 13-11, 11-6) to receive his ticket to the main draw.
“There are many possible reasons I won today’s match. Of course after Hungary we tried to find out why we lost and prepared better. It could also be that he didn’t play as well today and I played better. Overall it was still not an easy match” Vladimir Samsonov
Lisbon champions stay in sync
Lauded for their title-winning campaign at the 2020 ITTF Challenge Plus Portugal Open in Lisbon a couple of weeks ago, the French combination of Emmanuel Lebesson and Yuan Jia Nan carried on where they left off.
Just one preliminary round in the mixed doubles qualification event, Lebesson and Yuan needed just one win to qualify and it arrived promptly: needing just over 23 minutes the French duo powered past Belarusian counterparts Aliaksandr Khanin and Daria Trigolos 3-0 (11-5, 13-11, 11-2).
Drinkhall and Pitchford are comeback kings
We wrap up the day’s action with a quite simply incredible match in the men’s doubles category; it saw England’s Paul Drinkhall and Liam Pitchford steal the show!
Trailing Serbia’s Marko Jevtovic and Zsolt Peto 0-2 on the scoreboard, the challenge looked nothing short of perilous for the Englishmen. However, Drinkhall and Pitchford went on to rescue the situation, winning three games on the bounce to earn a sensational 3-2 win (10-12, 7-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-5).
“Yeah, very difficult in the beginning. We were trying to find answers but it was like everything that we tried they had answers for. We mixed our game up and tried to get back into it and once we got back into it they started to get a little bit frustrated. Because we changed levels, they were wondering what to do and me managed to keep going.” Paul Drinkhall
“Even at 2-0 we stayed positive and I think that’s what you have to do if you want to turn matches around. Once we got back to 2-2 we got a bit of momentum and in the fifth game we got a good start. I think they lost some belief towards the end.” Liam Pitchford