by Simon Daish
The 2019 World Championships runner-up found himself two games down before he knew it in his Round of 64 meeting with no.49 seed Pavel Platonov, and the Belarusian edged even closer to victory with one of the next three games also going in his favour. An unthinkable elimination loomed large but Falck kept his cool, earning games six and seven to squeeze over the finish line (6-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-6, 6-11, 11-2, 11-9).
Falck’s recovery was impressive but surely the comeback of the day goes to Turkey’s Abdullah Yigenler, who kept his head in the game right down to the final ball. Trailing by three games against an experienced head in Lubomir Pistej, Yigenler took his performance to a different level to stun the no.28 seed from Slovakia 4-3 (8-11, 6-11, 10-12, 11-5, 11-2, 11-5, 11-8).
Crowned European champion against the odds in 2016, France’s Emmanuel Lebesson won’t replicate the feat five years on after his exit was confirmed on day three. Seeded 14th, Lebesson was amongst the favourites to progress but was left with more questions than answers after losing out to Romania’s Hunor Szocs by a 4-1 margin (11-8, 13-11, 12-10, 11-13, 11-8).
“I knew it was going to be a close encounter since we have played a few times before against each other. My service and receive game was better today and that proved crucial.” Hunor Szocs
The host nation experienced mixed emotions during the session with Marek Badowski suffering elimination, but Jakub Dyjas and Samuel Kulczycki continue to fly the Polish flag in Warsaw with the latter player, in particular, sending a strong message to the rest of the field. Defying expectations, the no.80 seed’s latest win came against Russian stalwart Kirill Skachkov, fighting back from behind to beat the no.22 seed across seven games (11-8, 6-11, 12-10, 6-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-7).
“I had the advantage at 2:1 then Kirill recovered to level and he even led 2:3. In the decisive game, it was 2-5 to him, but I did not lose focus; I kept on fighting and thinking of each ball. I took the lead and won 11-7 in the last game. My service was better, and I think that was most important.” Samuel Kulczycki
Former champions and considerable names in the title race, Germany’s Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov are through to the last 32 following respective successes against Denmark’s Tobias Rasmussen (11-3, 11-5, 11-8, 11-5) and Turkey’s Ibrahim Gunduz (11-6, 11-6, 11-7, 19-21, 11-2). However, there’s no room for 10th seed Jonathan Groth who exited at the hands of Italy’s Niagol Stoyanov in dramatic fashion (14-16, 14-16, 13-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-3, 14-12).
For more information regarding the Liebherr 2020 ITTF European Championships visit the official tournament website at https://www.ettu.org/en/events/ittf-european-individual-championships-/general-information/