13 Mar 2020

There was plenty of drama on the opening day of main draw action, Friday 13th March, in the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Muscat at the 2020 ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open.

Shock victories and departures were scattered throughout as proceedings made a thrilling start!

Here are 5 things we learnt from Day 1:

by Simon Daish

French stars mean business

It’s safe to say the opening day of the main event proved to be an exceptional one for France with eight of the nine fixtures in which the country was represented going in its favour.

Laura Gasnier received plaudits for her nerves of steel performance as she recovered to beat Sutirtha Mukherjee in a seven game thriller (11-8, 11-5, 6-11, 8-11, 7-11, 11-8, 11-6) and joins fellow compatriot Yuan Jia Nan in the women’s singles last 16. 2016 European champion Emmanuel Lebesson toppled Bastian Steger 4-2 in the men’s singles event (14-12, 11-6, 9-11, 11-3, 9-11, 11-5), but the pick of the bunch was surely Tristan Flore who stunned second seed Jonathan Groth 4-3 (11-5, 8-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-7).

Flore and Gasnier also excelled in the mixed doubles category, winning both of their encounters to move through to the final!

Khanin and Trigolos enjoying their time in Muscat

Two names from Belarus experienced a very busy day’s schedule on Friday with Aliaksandr Khanin and Dario Trigolos in the thick of the action.

In the men’s singles race, Khanin battled past Egypt’s Ahmed Zayed 4-1 (11-3, 11-5, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6) before repeating the feat against Brazilian competitor Thiago Monteiro (10-12, 11-9, 11-4, 11-9, 11-5) to seal a top 16 finish. Trigolos will be present in the last 16 of the women’s singles following her straight games win over Serbia’s Tatiana Kukulkova (11-7, 11-8, 11-7, 13-11), while her victory over India’s Diya Parag Chitale (11-5, 11-9, 11-6) puts her through to the under 21 women’s singles semi-finals!

Khanin and Trigolos were also involved in mixed doubles action, exiting at the penultimate hurdle.

Japanese duo living up to expectations

Just two players from Japan were involved on the opening day with Miyu Kato and Maki Shiomi flying the flag for the Land of the Rising Sun – both were mightily impressive.

Indian opposition standing in their way, Kato powered into the last 16 of the women’s singles event with a crushing 4-0 display against Moumita Dutta (11-6, 11-5, 11-2, 11-3) while Shiomi only dropped one game on her way to victory over Madhurika Patkar (11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 11-1). These two are surely big contenders in the race for silverware!

Home advantage not enough to help Omani hopefuls

Playing on home soil can give an athlete that extra edge which can sometimes help them over the finish line. Unfortunately for the Omani players involved on the opening day of main draw action in Muscat it was not to be.

Four representatives in round one of the men’s singles draw: Asad Alraisi, Issa Al-Riyami, Muhannad Al Balushi and Maadh Al-Shahi all suffered elimination. It was a similar picture in the under 21 men’s singles as Al-Riyami and Al-Shahi were beaten by Indians Manav Vikash Thakkar (11-1, 11-8, 11-2) and Jeet Chandra (11-3, 11-6, 11-4) respectively. The host nation is now pinning its hopes on the men’s doubles tournament with Al Balushi and Alraisi still in the hunt.

Marcos Freitas doesn’t like waiting around!

We also learnt Portuguese star Marcos Freitas doesn’t like to spend long at the table if he can have his way, a point he proved in his men’s singles round of 32 encounter with Mudit Dani.

Needing just four games to see off his Indian opponent (11-4, 11-2, 11-5, 11-5), Freitas was utterly ruthless in his approach – less than 18 minutes spent on table, someone was keen to book their ticket for the last 16!

Challenge Series 2020 Oman Open Marcos Freitas Miyu Kato Maki Shiomi Tristan Flore Daria Trigolos Aliaksandr Khanin Laura Gasnier Maadh Al-Shahi Issa Al-Riyami

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Day 3 - 2020 ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open