05 Mar 2020

Simply he could not buy a win, that was until the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open in Doha when he sent a very clear message: don't upset me, I will return and bite back.

Required to qualify, on Thursday 5th March, Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus, caused the biggest upset in the opening round of the men’s singles event; he beat China’s Lin Gaoyuan, the no.4 seed, in seven games (5-11, 11-8, 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-7).

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Travelling back in time to the late 1980s when Vladimir Samsonov was a promising young cadet, I doubt since those days there has ever been a time when he has made such a disappointing start to a year.

It’s time to finish and hang up the racket was the comment that crossed the mind for the player who in just over one month’s time will mark his 44th birthday; it appeared players several generations younger were proving too sprightly.

In the first four international tournaments of the year, he didn’t win a single match. At the ITTF World Team Qualification tournament, he lost to Bence Majoros against Hungary, the effect no place for Belarus in the men’s team event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Soon after at the ITTF World Tour Platinum Germany Open, in his first match in the qualification stage, he was beaten by China’s Xu Chenhao.

Some three weeks later on the ITTF World Tour in Hungary, the no.10 seed, he experienced a first round exit at the hands of Frenchman Alexandre Cassin, having sandwiched in between suffered the same fate at the CCB Europe Top 16 Cup in Montreux. He was beaten by Slovenia’s in form Darko Jorgic.

Faced challenge

Now in Doha, Vladimir Samsonov has clearly displayed that it is pick up the racket, face the challenge square in the face, prove the detractors wrong and teach the younger generation a lesson. En route to the main draw he avenged the defeat against Alexandre Cassin prior to ousting China’s Zhou Yu.

Against Lin Gaoyuan, it was virtually two Vladimir Samsonovs on duty, that’s a sobering thought!

Lin Gaoyuan notably strong from the backhand (Photo: Hussein Sayed)


In the opening game, Lin Gaoyuan was in control from start to finish, Vladimir Samsonov way very much in the passive mode. In the seventh game, it was very different, Vladimir Samsonov saw his chance. Predominantly using his trademark slow motion forehand service technique, moving closer to the centre of the table than in the opening game to reduce the very effective Lin Gaoyuan backhand wide to his forehand, Vladimir Samsonov won the first three points.

Sense of belief

Quiet in the opening game, in the decider every point won was greeted with a deep verbal Belarus cry of success. Just as in the opening game when serving first, he had lost the first three points, in the decider he won the first three. Arguably they were the most critical three points in the whole match.

At the change of ends he led 5-1; at 9-6 the gap was down to three points, Vladimir Samsonov called “time out” but Lin Gaoyuan had one service left in the sequence. He won the point but it was the last he was to win.

We all know Vladimir Samsonov as the stylish elegant player who can keep the ball on the table ad infinitum; against Lin Gaoyuan he proved he is equally the master in the art of serve and first attack.
At 9-7 it was serve and vicious forehand to end matters, at 10-7 it was the same but from the backhand; arms raised in celebration.

Liam Pitchford, the no.15 seed now awaits in round two.

World Tour 2020 Qatar Open Vladimir Samsonov

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Day 4 - 2020 ITTF Qatar Open

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