18 Aug 2021

The Budapest Olympic Sports Hall played host to another breathtaking day of action on Wednesday 18th August, with qualifying hero Sreeja Akula causing a significant stir at WTT Contender Budapest 2021.

by Simon Daish

End of the road for title hopeful Balazova

Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova will play no further part in the Women’s Singles draw in Budapest following an astounding round of 16 defeat for the number four seed. Balazova was at the table for far shorter than anticipated heading into the day as she lost out to India’s Sreeja Akula by a staggering 3-0 margin (11-9, 11-6, 13-11).

Fellow Indian competitor Manika Batra awaits Akula at the quarter-final hurdle after securing a 3-2 victory for the second day in a row in Budapest. Facing Giorgia Piccolin in an exciting head-to-head, sixth seed Batra was made to work hard for the win, with her Italian counterpart putting up a brave front from start to finish (12-10, 11-13, 11-5, 4-11, 11-8).

Competing in the upper half of the draw, top seed Yang Xiaoxin continues to live up to expectations after the player from Monaco came away from her round of 16 match against Hungary’s Szandra Pergel with another victory to her name (11-6, 10-12, 11-4, 11-3). Pergel’s compatriot Georgina Pota also progresses, as do Russia’s Olga Vorobeva, Mariia Tailakova, Polina Mikhailova and Elizabet Abraamian.

“It gave me confidence to step on court as the top-seeded player in Budapest. I think the match went very well today… The turning point came in the third game when I realised that if I served once to the left and then to the right, my opponent would lose her balance. In the next round I expect another difficult match, but I am satisfied with my performance so far,” said Yang Xiaoxin

Stoyanov takes the spotlight following colossal upset

Sathiyan Gnanasekaran carried the unfortunate title of being the day’s most significant departure in the Men’s Singles event after the number four seed from India fell in the round of 16. Italy’s Niagol Stoyanov was responsible for Gnanasekaran’s exit, coming out on top in a dramatic encounter that saw three of the four games decided by the narrowest of margins (10-12, 11-7, 12-10, 19-17).

(Photo: Rémy Gros)

The tightest contest of the round saw Russia’s Kirill Skachkov and India’s Manav Vikash Thakkar push each other to the limit, with only one quarter-final ticket up for grabs. Number six seed Skachkov trailed twice in the match as Thakkar looked to capitalise on the early pressure. However, by the close of game five, the Russian emerged the happier player (10-12, 13-11, 8-11, 11-6, 11-9), earning the right to face Czech Republic’s Tomas Polansky in the last eight.

Swedish teenager Truls Moregard will also appear on day three following another successful outing in Budapest, this time in opposition to Germany’s Fanbo Meng (11-9, 9-11, 11-4, 11-7). Elsewhere, the top two seeded entries also prevailed, with England’s Liam Pitchford and Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna accounting for Aleksandr Khanin of Belarus (11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 11-4) and France’s Alexandre Robinot (11-6, 11-4, 8-11, 11-4) respectively.

“It feels good to participate here in Budapest. I like playing here, and the atmosphere is awesome. It’s a shame there are no spectators this time, but it’s nice to be back. It has been a tough year, and I’m just happy we have the chance to play. My Belarusian opponent takes risks, and I knew it would not be easy, but I played very well, particularly in the last game, so I am happy with this victory,” said Liam Pitchford

Down to the final four pairs

Barbora Balazova wasn’t simply the highest-profile player to fall in the day’s Women’s Singles action but also suffered the same fate in the Mixed Doubles as she and fellow Slovak Lubomir Pistej lost out to India’s Manika Batra and Sathiyan Gnanasekaran (11-4, 3-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-9) in the quarter-finals.

(Photo: Rémy Gros)

“We are a new pairing as we have just started playing with each other at international events. Pistej and Balazova are a very good pair with a lot of experience, and we were expecting a tight game, but we went in there with a good strategy and managed a great win,” said Sathiyan Gnanasekaran

Germany’s Tobias Hippler and Kilian Ort were the standout pair in the Men’s Doubles, proving a most formidable partnership as they eliminated Belarusian number four seeds Aleksandr Khanin and Pavel Platonov (11-6, 10-12, 11-3, 11-7). Meanwhile, Dora Madarasz and Szandra Pergel celebrated victory for the host nation in the Women’s Doubles quarter-finals as they cruised past Serbia’s Tijana Jokic and Dragana Vignjevic in straight games (11-3, 11-9, 11-6).

The playing field continues to narrow

The third day of the main draw starts at 10.00 local time, with semi-final action from all three doubles events taking centre stage.

In the day’s opening Women’s Doubles contest, Sweden’s Christina Källberg and Linda Bergström meet Russian top seeds Olga Vorobeva and Yana Noskova. Another Russian pair features over on table two with Vladimir Sidorenko and Kirill Skachkov taking on India’s Harmeet Desai and Manav Vikash Thakkar for a place in the Men’s Doubles final.

Local hero Georgina Pota is ready to welcome opposition from young Russian star Mariia Tailakova, 20, in the first of four Women’s Singles quarter-finals from 14.00, while England’s Liam Pitchford and Germany’s Kilian Ort lead the Men’s Singles programme from 15.20.

General News Liam Pitchford Barbora Balazova Lubomir Pistej Yang Xiaoxin Kirill Skachkov Niagol Stoyanov Sreeja Akula

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