by Simon Daish
Jancarik, who lodged an impressive comeback from two games down to beat Spain’s Alvaro Robles in the previous round, needed no such luck in his semi-final meeting with Pitchford. Never behind on games, the Czech showed great character from start to finish and now has his sights set firmly on Tokyo.
“It was up and down from the beginning. I was thinking that the match was going to be like this, and it was exactly as I thought. I’m very happy I won. In the end I was lucky with the last point, and I believe I needed this point. For the next match – anything is possible!” Lubomir Jancarik
Stunned at the penultimate hurdle but Pitchford still remains in the race, moving through to the second knockout stage as a defeated semi-finalist.
The other player through to the knockout 1 men’s singles final is Ukraine’s Kou Lei. Seeded 12th for the draw, Kou lived up to expectations as favourite to progress from his head-to-head against Niagol Stoyanov, dropping just the one game to the no.31 seed from Italy (11-6, 11-8, 14-16, 11-3, 12-10).
Attention then shifted to the knockout 2 semi-finals, both of which were decided by the narrowest of margins.
Belgium’s Florent Lambiet, no.32 seed stopped Vladimir Sidorenko in his tracks despite a late comeback charge from the in-form Russian star (12-10, 11-7, 8-11, 11-3, 5-11, 9-11, 11-9). All seven games were also required over on Table 2 as Hungary’s Bence Majoros, no.15 seed, recovered from a daunting 1-3 deficit to beat Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu 4-3 (11-8, 5-11, 7-11, 4-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7).
Rounding out the men’s singles programme for the day was last four action from the knockout 3 draw. Greece’s Panagiotis Gionis, seeded 10th, emerged victorious over the star of the morning session, Russia’s Kirill Skachkov in a marathon affair (5-11, 11-6, 11-9, 18-20, 11-7, 5-11, 11-8). The outcome sets up a showdown with fellow defender Wang Yang, after the no.6 seed from Slovakia progressed from the other semi-final with a 4-2 win against Hungary’s Adam Szudi (11-7, 11-7, 7-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-7).