by Simon Daish
Just one position separating the two players, but truth be told the margin of victory was wider than anticipated with Ovidiu Ionescu a step ahead from minute one. A brave effort from Paul Drinkhall, who will be the first to congratulate his opponent on an outstanding achievement.
Success for Ionescu, who fell to his knees in celebration, and there will be a huge sigh of relief from the Romanian who so very nearly missed out all together earlier on the week: losing two of his three group stage fixtures, Ionescu required results elsewhere to go in his favour just to reach the knock-outs, but it is the end result that counts, not how you get there, and now Ionescu is heading to Tokyo!
The other play-off featured two of the top three seeded entries in Guimarães as Greek no.3 seed Panagiotis Gionis welcomed opposition from the player seeded directly above him, Czech Republic’s Pavel Sirucek.
Both men anticipated to feature in the latter stages of the tournament, Gionis and Sirucek were aware there was no margin for error with a huge emotional journey awaiting them. Victory would result in the highest of highs, qualification to the Olympic Games – defeat was not an option!
A bright start can prove vital in high stake fixtures, laying a strong foundation to build upon and Sirucek couldn’t have asked for a better opening, claiming game one by a clear five point margin. Importantly, however, Gionis struck back right away with a narrow win in game two and his level didn’t drop from that point on, taking home the next three games in a row to qualify for the grandest of stages yet again (6-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-4, 11-7).
Two further tickets handed out, congratulations to Ovidiu Ionescu and Panagiotis Gionis on securing their passage to Tokyo 2020!