22 Jun 2021

An early exit three years ago when the tournament was staged in Alicante, Ukraine’s Viktor Yefimov caused the biggest upset on the opening day of play, Tuesday 22nd June, at the Liebherr 2020 ITTF European Individual Championships in Warsaw.

Yefimov accounted for Finland’s Benedek Olah, the highest rated player on men’s singles qualification stage duty (11-6, 11-6, 6-11, 4-11, 11-9). The 31-year-old had every right to celebrate but arguably not to the extent as in the women’s singles by Anna Hursey of Wales.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Against the odds, Hursey beat Bulgaria’s Maria Yovkova (11-3, 11-8, 11-6), the third-highest ranked player on first-day action, to make it a double celebration with the opening day in Warsaw also marking her 15th birthday!

Problems for Maria Yovkova, as the day progressed there were further problems for the Bulgarian when confronting another aspiring teenager as she was beaten by 16-year-old Prithika Pavade of France (11-5, 7-11, 11-9, 11-8).

Door still open

Defeat for Benedek Olah but the door is not completely shut; in his second fixture of the day he overcame Israel’s Yonatan Shusterman (11-6, 11-5, 11-4).

Players finishing in first position in each of the 24 groups advance to join the 32 seeds in the main draw. Meanwhile, the remaining eight places are filled as a result of two preliminary rounds involving the second-placed players in each group. In the concluding group contest, Viktor Yefimov opposes Yonatan Shusterman.

Somewhat differently in the women’s singles event, as with the men 64 players in the main draw, those finishing in first position in each of the 20 groups join the 32 seeds in the competition proper; the four players concluding matters in runners up spots in groups number 17 to 20, also qualify. A preliminary round involving those who finished in second positions in groups one through 16 decide the remaining eight places.

Leading names stumble

Surprise defeats, amongst the leading names, in the men’s singles it was the same for England’s Sam Walker, Belgium’s Florent Lambiet and Slovenia’s Deni Kozul, all listed amongst the top eight names on first day duty. Sam Walker lost to Serbia’s Dimitrije Levajac (11-5, 11-9, 5-11, 7-11, 11-3), Florent Lambiet to Moldova’s Vladislav Ursu (11-4, 5-11, 8-11, 11-7, 11-6), Deni Kozul when opposing Russia’s Lev Katsman (11-9, 11-9, 11-8).

Conversely, Portugal’s João Geraldo, the Czech Republic’s Lubomir Jancarik and Italy’s Niagol Stoyanov, in addition to Sweden’s Truls Möregard, enjoyed success in their opening encounters.

However, for Truls Möregard it was almost calamity: in his initial contest he had to recover from a two games to one deficit before overcoming Russia’s Maksim Grebnev by the very minimal margin in the deciding fifth game (11-9, 10-12, 6-11, 11-5, 12-10).

Truls Möregard made to work hard on opening day in Warsaw (Photo courtesy of Polish Table Tennis Federation)
Main draw places secured

Nevertheless, for Truls Möregard a main draw place was secured. Similarly, in the women’s singles, five of the top eight names reserved their second stage berths.

Italy’s Giorgia Piccolin, Croatia’s Mateja Jeger, Serbia’s Andrea Todorovic and Germany’s Sabine Winter, as well as Belgium’s Nathalie Marchetti, all enjoyed successful outings.

Rather differently Serbia’s Sabina Surjan, the sixth listed name, experienced defeat at the hands of Austria’s Liu Yuan (7-11, 11-8, 11-5, 11-5), prior to overcoming Slovakia’s Ema Labosova (11-8, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9).

Hopes of progress remain alive for Sabina Surjan, not for Slovakia’s Tatiana Kukulkova, the seventh-highest rated on first phase duty as she was beaten by both Hungary’s Leila Imre (11-7, 12-10, 7-11, 11-9) and Turkey’s Ece Harac (11-5, 11-8, 11-8).

Doubles action underway

The day also played host to preliminary round doubles action.

One of the standout doubles fixtures of the day came courtesy of the mixed doubles second preliminary round as Vladislav Rukletsov and Katsiaryna Baravok of Belarus fought back from behind to beat the English pair of Sam Walker and Tin-Tin Ho, edging a dramatic 38-point deciding game in the process (11-5, 7-11, 7-11, 11-9, 20-18).

Play in the qualification events concludes on Wednesday 23rd June.

For more information regarding the Liebherr 2020 ITTF European Championships visit the official tournament website at

General News Anna Hursey Viktor Yefimov

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