by Simon Daish
Following an unplanned year’s delay brought about due to the global pandemic, the rescheduling means the European Championships returns to Poland 10 years on from the country’s previous hosting of the tournament in Gdansk/Sopot in 2011. One of the sport’s most coveted honours on the line in Warsaw, the event also provides players with the perfect opportunity to lay down an important marker with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games just over the horizon!
Poland’s very own Li Qian stood out from the crowd at the 2018 European Championships in Alicante and defends her women’s singles title on home soil in full knowledge of the calibre of opposition looking to dethrone her in Warsaw.
Losing out at the final hurdle on her previous outing, Ukraine’s Margaryta Pesotska is aiming to go one step further this time out while former champions Elizabeta Samara of Romania, winner in 2015, Austria’s Liu Jia, 2005, and Luxembourg’s Ni Xialian, 1998 and 2002, all make the entry list.
The highest-ranked player on the continent, Austria’s Sofia Polcanova will be looking to go all the way and build upon her double medal success achieved in Alicante, 2019 European Games gold medallist Fu Yu of Portugal will undoubtedly have her say on the title race, as will Germany’s Petrissa Solja and Romania’s Bernadette Szocs who have both enjoyed success at the Europe Top 16 Cup tournament.
Germany’s Timo Boll, who made history by winning his seventh singles title in Alicante, will once again be front and centre in the men’s singles draw as he searches for an eighth European crown in the category and he has reason to be optimistic, not only is he the defending champion but also struck gold ten years back in Gdansk/Sopot!
One man hoping to put a spanner in the works is Boll’s German colleague Dimitrij Ovtcharov as he sets his sights on a third title having won in 2013 and 2015. Belarusian icon Vladimir Samsonov, winner in 1998, 2003 and 2005, will also try his hand once again, and can France’s Emmanuel Lebesson pull off a repeat of his shock victory from five years ago in Budapest?
Other notable names heading to Warsaw include 2019 World Championships silver medallist Mattias Falck of Sweden, Portugal’s Marcos Freitas, who lifted the Europe Top 16 Cup in 2014, while Liam Pitchford dreams of taking the trophy back to England for the first time since John Hilton ‘1000-1 odds’ victory in 1980.
In addition to the two singles disciplines, silverware across three doubles events is also on the line in Warsaw.
Austria’s Robert Gardos and Daniel Habesohn head to the Polish capital as reigning men’s doubles champions and are gunning for a third continental trophy as a pair having also emerged victorious in 2012 in Herning, Denmark. Kristin Lang and Nina Mittelham caused a stir in Alicante with their shock title success in the women’s doubles draw; fast forward two years and Mittelham is back for more, this time alongside another German colleague in Sabine Winter. Multiple former champions make the entry list for the mixed doubles race including Portugal’s Joao Monteiro, gold medallist in 2016, Serbia’s Aleksandar Karakasevic, as well as Ruta Paskauskiene of Lithuania.
The draw for all five categories will take place at the playing venue on Sunday 20th June 2021. All fixtures contested in the men’s and women’s singles events will be played out in a best of seven games format, while the men’s, women’s and mixed doubles will adopt a best of five games approach.