by Ian Marshall
Vast experience and it could be the key. They say experience counts, at the World Singles Qualification Tournament staged in March in Doha, the now 41-year-old disproved that theory! He entertained with his defensive play but ultimately, his experience counted for naught!
In the first phase knock-out events, he was beaten in the final by Slovakia’s Wang Yang (3-11, 11-5, 11-9, 6-11, 11-6, 11-7); the runner up, it meant he had a second chance, he progressed to the phase two competition, losing to Great Britain’s Liam Pitchford (12-10, 8-11, 11-9, 5-11, 7-11, 11-9, 14-12).
Disappointment but there is a good omen. Prior to losing to Liam Pitchford, Panagiotis Gionis had beaten Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu (12-10, 11-7, 11-6, 8-11, 17-19, 12-10).
In Guimarães, Ovidiu Ionescu is the no.6 seed and like Panagiotis Gionis can take heart from his Doha expedition. In the first knock-out event, at the semi-final stage he lost to Hungary’s Bence Majoros (11-8, 5-11, 7-11, 4-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7) but that was not until after he had recorded a significant quarter-final success. He ousted Austria’s Daniel Habesohn (11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 11-5, 5-11, 5-11, 11-9) who, in the Portuguese city, is the top seed.
Top four, direct to main draw
Repeat meetings in Guimarães, it is possible, but it will have to wait at least until the second day of action. Daniel Habesohn and Panagiotis Gionis, alongside the Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek, the no.2 seed, and Ukraine’s Kou Lei, the no.4 seed, receive direct main draw entries. Ovidiu Ionescu must compete in the group stage and gain a top two finish.
A second Olympic Games appearance for Ovidiu Ionescu, it is the same for Daniel Habesohn, both competed in Rio de Janeiro but for Daniel Habesohn it was only in the men’s team event. He seeks a men’s singles debut.
Similarly, Kou Lei is in search of a second visit, he played in Beijing; for Pavel Sirucek, a first. If such an outcome is to be realized both may well have to improve on their World Singles Qualification Tournament performance earlier this year in Doha. Kou Lei was beaten in the first phase final by the Czech Republic’s Lubomir Jancarik (11-5, 14-12, 11-9, 11-6); in the second stage a quarter-final exit when opposing Russia’s Kirill Skachkov (11-3, 13-11, 11-9, 12-14, 11-5). Meanwhile, for Pavel Sirucek, he suffered in round two when opposing Aleksandr Khanin of Belarus (12-10, 11-8, 11-9, 11-4).
Equally, Great Britain’s Paul Drinkhall, Spain’s Alvaro Robles and Poland’s Jakub Dyjas, who complete the top eight names in Guimarães did not set the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena Stadium alight; none booked a final place.
Paul Drinkhall, lost to Russia’s Vladimir Sidorenko (14-12, 7-11, 11-5, 11-9, 13-15, 13-11), Alvaro Robles, was beaten by Lubomir Jancarik (4-11, 4-11, 15-13, 11-8, 12-10, 21-10); Jakub Dyjas suffered at the hands of Great Britain’s Liam Pitchford (11-8, 11-13, 11-5, 8-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7).
In Guimarães, Paul Drinkhall, who played in London and Rio de Janeiro, is the no.5 seed, Alvaro Robles, the no.7 seed, Jakub Dyjas the no.8 seed. For Alvaro Robles, he seeks a first Olympic Games venture, Jakub Dyjas competed in Rio de Janeiro.
Notably, the name of Liam Pitchford is missing from the entry list in Guimarães, so are those of Austria’s Robert Gardos and Vladimir Samsonov of Belarus. Vladimir Samsonov is nursing a shoulder injury and decided not to compete; all three must now rely on the very last stage of Olympic Games qualification.
After all the qualification procedures have been completed, any positions in the men’s singles and women’s singles still to be filled, the leading eligible names on the June 2021 Olympic Rankings, not already qualified, gain Tokyo places.
Currently of those players who have not yet qualified for the men’s singles event in Tokyo, on the rankings, Liam Pitchford is the leading name, followed by Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna, Robert Gardos and Vladimir Samsonov.
European Olympic Singles Qualification: