by Ian Marshall
Tense moments, none more so than in the men’s decisive contest that witnessed success for Alvaro Robles, the no.7 seed, in opposition to Russia’s Vladimir Sidorenko, the no.23 seed. An enthralling engagement, the Spaniard saved four match points in the seventh game, before eventually prevailing at his third attempt (9-11, 12-10, 14-12, 8-11, 9-11, 11-3, 17-15).
“I could not sleep properly at this tournament. I was reading books until 2.00 am and 3.00 am every night, just to avoid thinking about what might happen. In past years I have been living just one dream, to play at the Olympics.” Alvaro Robles
Success for Alvaro Robles, for Kou Lei, the no.4 seed, life was less exacting but required mind, body and soul to be kept together. He was required to withstand a spirited recovery by Romania’s Rares Sipos, the no.20 seed, before eventually emerging successful in six games (11-9, 11-7, 11-8, 4-11, 5-11, 11-8).
Upset order of merit
Wins as status predicted, in the vital women’s singles contests, it was the reverse scenario.
Prithika Pavade, only 16 years old, continued her quite incredible run of form; occupying a lowly no.34 seeded position, she accounted for Russia’s Yana Noskova, the no.3 seed (11-5, 11-7, 14-12, 9-11, 11-6).
“I never thought I would be at the Olympic Games in Japan. I hoped it would happen in Paris 2024. Honestly, I did not dare to dream that here I would be in first place. I am so grateful that my federation gave me the chance to compete here.” Prithika Pavade
An impressive performance by Prithika Pavade, it was the same from colleague, Yuan Jia Nan, the no.9 seed; likewise, she ousted a celebrated name, she beat Portugal’s Shao Jieni, the no.4 seed (7-11, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5, 11-5, 11-8).
Defeats for Rares Sipos, Yana Noskova and Shao Jieni but their hopes of tickets to Tokyo remain alive, as for Vladimir Sidorenko his aspirations have evaporated. In his opening match in the second knock-out competition, he was beaten by Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu (11-8, 13-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-7), a player who commenced the tournament in the no.6 seeded position.
Conversely, for Rares Sipos it was success against Ukraine’s Yevhen Pryshchepa, the no.15 seed (9-11, 9-11, 12-10, 11-9, 11-1, 11-7), as in the women’s event it was for Yana Noskova and Shao Jieni but not without moments of trepidation.
Likewise commencing play in round two, Yana Noskova experienced few moments of anguish, as she beat Lithuania’s Ruta Paskauskiene, the no.31 seed (8-11, 11-8, 13-1, 11-8, 11-7). For Shao Jieni, life was very different, for she was required to recover from a three games to nil deficit, before eventually ending the progress of Denmark’s Mie Skov, the no.39 seed (10-12, 7-11, 2-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-9, 11-7).
Once again exit at first attempt
Results very much as status advised but with quarter-final places the goal, there was one major upset in the women’s event.
The Czech Republic’s Hana Matelova, the top seed, suffered yet again. In the first draw she had experienced defeat in the Round of 16 when facing Prithika Pavade (7-11, 11-5, 12-10, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9); in the second draw, the same fate befell the 30-year-old. She was beaten by Turkey’s Sibel Altinkaya, the no.27 seed (11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 11-7, 17-15).
Defeat for the top seed, there were no such travails for the next in line. Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova booked her last eight place courtesy of success in opposition to Daria Trigolos of Belarus, the no.13 seed (7-11, 11-9, 11-7, 7-11, 11-7, 11-7).
In a similar vein, for the most illustrious names on men’s singles duty it was a positive start. Austria’s Daniel Habesohn, the top seed, accounted for Poland’s Jakub Dyjas, the no.8 seed (17-15, 9-11, 10-12, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 11-8). Meanwhile, the Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek, the no.2 seed, overcame Belgium’s Cédric Nuytinck, the no.10 seed (11-7, 11-9, 12-10, 7-11, 11-7), Panagiotis Gionis of Greece, the no.3 seed, ended the hopes of Slovakia’s Lubomir Pistej, the no.9 seed (9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 7-11, 11-3, 11-13, 11-4).
Play concludes on Sunday 25th April when a further two men and three women will have reserved Tokyo 2020 places.