26 Jun 2021

Men’s singles silver medallist three years back in Alicante, Romania’s Ovidiu Ionescu is a man with lofty ambitions as he battles through the Liebherr 2020 ITTF European Championships in Warsaw, earning another impressive victory on the afternoon of Saturday 26th June.

by Simon Daish

Ovidiu Ionescu, no.25 seed, faced a difficult encounter in the form of no.4 seed Patrick Franziska, a challenge he was more than prepared for. Completing the task with little trouble, Ionescu simply outclassed the German 4-0 (11-8, 11-4, 11-7, 11-9) to book his spot in the quarter-finals.

A fine display from Ionescu, and fellow Romanian Hunor Szocs wasn’t far behind but would ultimately fall short to a major contender for gold. Taking on top seed Mattias Falck at the top of the Round of 16 draw, qualifier Szocs raced into a two-game lead early on, only for his Swedish counterpart to fight his way back to a dramatic six-game victory (8-11, 10-12, 11-3, 11-4, 11-4, 12-10).

Seeded directly below Falck, Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov also required six games to negotiate his meeting with ninth seed Kristian Karlsson (5-11, 11-9, 11-4, 9-11, 11-4, 11-6), while no.3 seed and defending champion Timo Boll was taken the full distance by Benedikt Duda, doing just about enough to extend his stay (11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 9-11, 11-5, 9-11, 11-5).

The host nation looked set for representation in the women’s singles quarter-finals as Natalia Bajor came within touching distance of one of the upsets of the tournament. Bajor, seeded 25th, gave a very good account of herself against the player seeded 23 positions above her in Petrissa Solja with the German forced right down to the wire in a thrilling contest (16-18, 8-11, 11-2, 11-8, 9-11, 13-11, 11-9).

Brave effort but Natalia Bajor misses out on last eight (Photo: Bogdan Pasek)

Solja’s fellow compatriot Sabine Winter also made headlines in an eventful session, rising above the odds to earn a notable scalp. Seeded 37th and one of the few qualifiers left in the title race, Winter came out on top against a familiar face, seeing off no.3 seed Han Ying in an all-German encounter (11-9, 12-10, 9-11, 11-9, 12-10).

Amongst the standout names on day four, Linda Bergström was at it again in the last 16 as the no.22 seed from Sweden accounted for Slovakian mixed doubles runner-up Barbora Balazova in convincing fashion (11-9, 11-8, 11-8, 11-4).

Pushed all the way on the singles front, Petrissa Solja also required the full match distance in the women’s doubles quarter-finals as she and Han Ying recovered from 1-2 down to beat Luxembourg’s Ni Xia Lian and Sarah De Nutte 3-2 (11-13, 11-4, 9-11, 11-5, 11-5).

Meanwhile, it proved a less stressful round for Ukraine’s Ganna Gapanova and Tetyana Bilenko with the 10th seeded partnership powering past Portugal’s Fu Yu and Shao Jieni, no.7 seeds, in straight games (11-5, 11-7, 11-9).

“We were so nervous and excited before this duel because we knew how good Portugal’s players are and we were aware that we were playing for our first doubles medal. But when the match started, we were prepared and calm. We played like we were one.” Ganna Gapanova

Defending men’s doubles champions Robert Gardos and Daniel Habesohn have missed out on the opportunity to make it back-to-back successes on the continental stage. The no.5 seeded Austrians fell to Hungary’s Adam Szudi and Nandor Ecseki, no.3 seeds, at the quarter-final hurdle (11-9, 11-9, 11-8).

Top seeds Qiu Dang and Benedikt Duda are also out of the running after the German pair suffered defeat at the hands of Russian no.18 seeds Lev Katsman and Maksim Grebnev (7-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-9), who are now guaranteed to leave Warsaw with a medal.

“It is our first medal as seniors and it is a great feeling, although it was also the main reason why we had such a bad start. Thinking of the medal brought us trouble; we were under pressure and we failed to play as well as we could in the start of the match… Until the end it was a close game, but we kept it under control.” Maksim Grebnev

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

General News Mattias Falck Sabine Winter Ovidiu Ionescu Natalia Bajor

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