by Simon Daish
Ovidiu Ionescu entered his meeting with Jesus Cantero seeded 18 positions above the Spaniard and was the considerable favourite to prevail, but the end result couldn’t have been further from reality. Leading from start to finish, Cantero cut a composed figure throughout and emerged the deserved winner across the five games (11-7, 12-10, 10-12, 11-9, 11-5).
Defeat for Ionescu, it was the same for the man he partnered to men’s doubles silver at the 2019 World Championships, Spain’s Alvaro Robles!
Named directly below Ionescu on the seeding list, Robles is another player expected to deliver in group stage proceedings. However, the no.7 seed failed to capitalise on a three-game lead and was punished for it with Belarusian no.21 seed Aliaksandr Khanin pulling a sensational 4-3 comeback victory out of the bag (3-11, 9-11, 6-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-6, 11-9).
The full seven-game distance was also required to separate Poland’s Jakub Dyjas and Russia’s Vladimir Sidorenko, seeded eighth and 23rd respectively, with the latter player coming out on top (11-7, 11-8, 13-15, 4-11, 11-9, 6-11, 11-8). Great British no.12 seed Samuel Walker was another top seeded competitor who experienced a less than ideal start, losing out to Luxembourg’s Eric Glod in Group F (9-11, 11-6, 11-5, 11-9, 11-4).
There was some positive news for Great Britain during the session as Paul Drinkhall, seeded fifth, came out on top in his Group B opener against Turkey’s Ibrahim Gunduz (11-9, 11-4, 11-4, 11-7).
Other standout performances came courtesy of Moldova’s Vladislav Ursu and Alex Naumi: Ursu, seeded 33rd, came through a seven-game epic in his opening fixture against the no.18 seed from Belarus, Pavel Platonov (11-9, 11-9, 5-11, 9-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7), while Naumi overcame opposition from Belgian no.14 seed Florent Lambiet (4-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9, 11-9, 9-11, 11-7).