by Simon Daish
Seen off at the same hurdle in the first knock-out tournament, Habesohn would fare better this time around, but only just with Polish no.8 seed Jakub Dyjas offering up a brave challenge across seven thrilling games (17-15, 9-11, 10-12, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 11-8).
Panagiotis Gionis was another of the top seeded entries to tackle a gruelling affair with the no.3 seed from Greece pushed right down to the wire. Taking on a wily opponent in Slovakia’s Lubomir Pistej, seeded ninth, Gionis demonstrated great patience to quite simply outlast Pistej (9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 11-3, 11-13, 11-4).
Second seed Pavel Sirucek was presented with a more straightforward task with the Czech hopeful needing just the five games to see off Belgium’s Cedric Nuytinck (11-7, 11-9, 12-10, 7-11, 11-7), while Great Britain’s Paul Drinkhall, seeded fifth, moved through at Aleksandr Khanin’s expense with the Belarusian withdrawing through injury.
Narrowly missing out on qualification in the first knock-out stage, Russia’s Vladimir Sidorenko was further adrift at the second attempt with the up-and-coming star experiencing a 4-1 defeat in opposition to Romanian no.6 seed Ovidiu Ionescu (11-8, 13-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-7). Ionescu’s compatriot Rares Sipos also secured passage to the next round with victory over Ukraine’s Yevhen Pryshchepa (9-11, 9-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-1, 11-7). Italy’s Mihai Bobocica and Luxembourg’s Eric Glod take the two remaining spots in the last eight.
The women’s singles Round of 16 was also packed with drama featuring many a notable departure, including the top seed herself Hana Matelova. Turkey’s Sibel Altinkaya was the player to provide the upset with the no.27 seed completely defying expectations – five games played, it was Altinkaya who left the court smiling, for she had ousted the Czech favourite (11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 11-7, 17-15)!
Another player who refuses to let her seeding position define her, Bulgaria’s Polina Trifonova continues to exhibit some of her finest table tennis in Guimarães. Seeded 37th for the draw, if Trifonova’s presence in the last 16 was somewhat unexpected, even more heads will turn when she takes to the quarter-final stage following a mesmerising seven-game victory over Great Britain’s Charlotte Carey (11-7, 15-13, 8-11, 7-11, 11-4, 9-11, 11-4).
There was relief for the host nation after Portugal’s very own Shao Jieni successfully negotiated her Round of 16 encounter. However, the Portuguese no.4 seed very nearly missed out, fighting back from 0-3 down to defeat Danish counterpart Mie Skov 4-3 (10-12, 7-11, 2-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-9, 11-7).
Spain’s Maria Xiao and Sweden’s Christina Källberg also progressed off the back of full distance ties, beating Slovenia’s Katarina Strazar (11-6, 11-7, 11-13, 2-11, 11-3, 7-11, 11-7) and Italy’s Giorgia Piccolin (10-12, 11-9, 5-11, 7-11, 11-6, 11-5, 13-11). Barbora Balazova, Yana Noskova and Sarah De Nutte were the other names to progress.