by Ian Marshall
Defensive skills to fore, on the concluding day of play, the now 41-year-old Greek, the no.3 seed, accounted for Romania’s Rares Sipos, the no.20 seed (11-6, 11-8, 12-10, 11-5), prior to overcoming the Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek, the no.2 seed (6-11, 12-10, 11-8, 4-11, 11-7), to book his ticket to the Land of the Rising Sun in late July.
All’s well that ends well
Hard earned success but quite comfortable when compared with Ovidiu Ionescu. It was for Ovidiu Ionescu, who previously competed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, a situation of “all’s well that ends well”.
Unexpectedly, on the first day of play, the no.6 seed, lost his opening two matches. He was beaten by Spain’s Jesus Cantero, the no.24 seed (11-7, 12-10, 10-12, 11-9, 11-5) and Italy’s Mihai Bobocica, the no.17 seed (7-11, 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-6). Success against Israel’s Tal Israeli, the no.34 seed (11-9, 11-7, 11-6, 11-8) secured a main draw place, where Slovakia’s Lubomir Pistej, the no.9 seed, ended progress (11-8, 5-11, 10-12, 4-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-8).
Problems against lower ranked players, on the final day of play he turned the tables. He accounted for Austria’s Daniel Habesohn, the top seed (3-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-8, 9-11, 11-1, 11-7), before in the vital deciding contest overcoming Great Britain’s Paul Drinkhall, the no.5 seed (3-11, 8-11, 12-10, 11-8, 9-11, 11-1, 11-7).
Defeat for Paul Drinkhall, there was further disappointment for the British player, in the contest for the fifth and final place in Guimarães, he was beaten by Pavel Sirucek (11-3, 11-3, 6-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-7). It will be for Pavel Sirucek his first Olympic Games appearance.
Second appearance for Yana Noskova
A reward for effort, it was very much the same in the women’s event for Yana Noskova, the no.3 seed and Maria Xiao, the no.6 seed.
Four places on offer as opposed to five for the men, Yana Noskova, who was on duty at the London 2012 Olympic Games, accounted for Turkey’s Sibel Altinkaya, the no.27 seed (11-9, 12-10, 7-11, 13-11, 11-6) and Bulgaria’s Polina Trifonova, the no.37 seed, to reserve her Tokyo place.
Twice the runner up
Strength of character showed as it did for Maria Xiao. At the World Qualification Tournament staged earlier this year in Doha, she had reached two finals and had lost both. She had been beaten by Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut (13-11, 5-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-8) and by Monaco’s Yang Xiaoxin (14-12, 8-11, 4-11, 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 12-10).
In Guimarães, it was one last chance; the opportunity was seized. The no.6 seed, she beat Sweden’s Christina Källberg, the no.26 seed (11-3, 11-3, 11-7, 10-12, 7-11, 11-9), prior to staving off a brave challenge from Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova, the no.2 seed (11-9, 6-11, 11-7, 11-9, 4-11, 5-11, 11-6) to book her Olympic Games debut.
Earlier in the week, for the men, Ukraine’s Kou Lei and Spain’s Alvaro Robles had secured Tokyo places, for the women it had been the French pair of Prithika Pavade and Yuan Jia Nan.