by Dominique Plattner, ITTF High Performance Manager
Whatever the aspirations, whether harbouring a realistic hope of securing a title or simply realising the honour of competing in a magnificent arena, the tournament with a long and respected tradition, is a big moment for each participant.
Time and again, Hungarian names have featured prominently. Roland Jacobi and Maria Mednyanszky emerged the men’s and women’s singles winners at the first ever World Championships in 1926. Later, arrived on the scene such illustrious names as Zoltan Mechlovits, Viktor Barna, Miklos Szabados, Ferenc Sido, Annus Sipos and Gizi Farkas followed in more recent times by Istvan Jonyer, Tibor Klampar, Gabor Gergely, Judit Magos, Csilla Batorfi, Krisztina Toth and Georgina Pota.
Prominent pair on duty at the very start
Rich in tradition in more than one aspect but when considering surprises, the Liebherr 2019 World Championships was more than a match for those that had gone before. In Budapest, after the opening two days of play had concluded upsets abounded.
We revisit the singles field of 79 men and 60 women, the doubles events and the preliminary rounds.
A most prominent mixed doubles pair from China, Fan Zhendong and Ding Ning faced Nikhil Kumar and Lily Zhang from the United States. The players at the time listed in top spots on the world rankings proved too strong; the prevailed in straight games (11-5, 11-8, 11-3).
Meanwhile, gold medallist in men’s singles class 10 at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Poland’s 30 year old Patryk Chojnowski was in early action; a player who enjoyed notable success at both cadet and junior level. He made a most positive start to his campaign.
He beat Nicholas Tio, like Nikhil Kumar from the United States, before losing to one of today’s rising stars, India’s Manav Vikash Thakkar.
One match stood out
Intriguing contests, it was very much the theme in the group stage of the men’s singles event; the engagement in particular to attract the attention being that between two great favourites with the fans, Denmark’s Michael Maze and Serbia’s Aleksandar Karakasevic.
Crowned European champion in 2009, for evermore Michael Maze will always be remembered for his incredible recovery at the 2005 World Championships in Shanghai. Having earlier in the tournament beaten Wang Hao, at the quarter-stage he trailed Hao Shuai three games to nil and was down 7-10 in the fourth, he slipped, fell to the floor, Hao Shuai missed an absolute sitter; employing high lobbed top spin defensive strokes, the Dane recovered to win in seven games.
“Kara” or “King Kara”, bronze medallist at the 2011 European Championships in Gdansk, like Michael Maze has sublime hand skills; also he is very much noted for his trademark backhand and his fighting spirit. In Budapest that quality came to the fore, he recovered from a two games to nil and three games to one deficit to emerge successful (6-11, 7-11, 16-14, 8-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-2).
Moldova, small country, big heart
A big heart won the day for Karakasevic, it was very much the same for Moldova.
Andrei Putuntica, 19 years old at that time and Vladislav Ursu, one year younger, caused one of the biggest upsets on the opening two days of action; this time Aleksandar Karakasevic was on the receiving end!
In partnership with Spain’s Jesus Cantero, the duo experienced a four games defeat in opposition to the Moldovan teenagers.
The result underlined the continued progress being made by the bright young men; Vladislav Ursu competed in the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games; earlier this year Andrei Putuntica was a semi-finalist at the 2020 European Under 21 Championships.
ITTF Scholarship holders
Impressive form; it was the same from ITTF Scholarship holders. Like Aleksandar Karakasevic from Serbia, Sabina Surjan overcame Luxembourg’s Ni Xia Lian, listed and no.46 on the world rankings, a player 37 years her senior!
Not be outshone by her teammate, Izabela Lupulesku beat world no. 51 Barbora Balazova from Slovakia in seven games, the match concluding 11-9 in a thrilling decider.
Likewise, the host nation’s Dora Madarasz, ranked no.70, hit the headlines, she accounted for Li Jie of the Netherlands, ranked no.27; the 4-3 win delighted the local crowd.
Upsets in the women’s singles, it was the same in the men’s singles event; Romania’s Cristian Pletea beat Brazil’s Gustavo Tsuboi in straight games, in a full distance duel, the Czech Republic’s Tomas Polansky ousted Chinese Taipei’s Chen Chien-An.
Record maintained by close call
Qualification concluded, the main draw commenced and one match in particular caught the eye.
Germany’s Timo Boll faced Croatia’s Andrej Gacina, the winner of the men’s doubles title at the 2011 European Championships when partnering Marcos Freitas.
In the previous ten encounters Timo Boll had prevailed; he maintained the record in Budapest but it was hard fought, he needed six games to ensure the victory (11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 18-16, 7-11, 11-8).
Stay tuned for the upcoming days!