30 Apr 2023

Success against the odds, a local hero acclaimed

Breakthrough, a first ever international title, Marios Chatzikriakos was the toast of the host nation at the three-day ITTF Greek Para Open 2023 in Argostoli, play concluding on Sunday 30th April; against all odds, not seeded, the 21-year-old won men’s singles class 6.

Furthermore, he beat the best on duty to secure gold, at the semi-final stage he accounted for Great Britain’s Martin Perry, the top seed (11-7, 9-11, 11-7, 13-15, 11-5), before securing the title at the expense of Frenchman, Esteban Herrault, the no.2 seed (12-10, 11-9, 5-11, 14-12).

An unexpected success for Marios Chatzikriakos but he had been a semi-finalist twice in Egypt and once on the Costa Brava; Ukraine’s Valerii Vlasenko’s title win was an even greater surprise; he had no such credentials to his name.

New to the scene, competing in men’s singles class 11, not seeded, the 25-year-old overcame Frenchman Antoine Zhao, the no.2 seed, in the penultimate round (12-14, 12-10, 15-13, 11-3), prior to accounting for Hong Kong’s Wan Wai Lok (11-7, 8-11, 6-11, 12-10, 11-9) in the final.

Notably, Antoine Zhao was a player in form; at the semi-final stage he had beaten colleague and top seed, Timothe Ivaldi (6-11, 11-4, 11-6, 9-11, 14-12).

Major upsets and there was more; in women’s singles class 11, Poland’s Ewa Cychowska claimed the title by defeating the top seed, Ukraine’s Natalya Kosmina, not once but twice! She prevailed in the group stage (8-11, 12-10, 12-10, 11-8) and then in the final (11-7, 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 14-12).

Unexpected winners, in the men’s singles, two further names, Frenchman, Emeric Martin and Ukraine’s Maksym Nikolenko upset the order of merit, the magnitude of their surprise successes relatively minor.

Emeric Martin, now 49 years old, the winner earlier in the year in Egypt and the no.2 seed, beat French compatriot, Nicolas Savant-Aira, the top seed, the secure the men’s singles class 4-5 title; Maksym Nikolenko concluded matters the men’s singles class 7-8 champion.

Imposingly, Maksym Nikolenko, the no.3 seed, beat teammate Viktor Didukh, the top seed and reigning world champion (11-5, 11-9, 11-6), before overcoming Poland’s Piotr Grudzien, the no.2 seed, to emerge victorious (7-11, 13-11, 12-14, 11-7, 11-8).

Predictably, in the remaining men’s singles events, the top seeds, prevailed; Korea’s Park Jungsoo (class 1), Frenchman Florian Merrien (class 3) and Belgium’s Laurens Devos (class 9) all justified their status, as did the Polish duo of Rafal Czuper (class 2) and Patryk Chojnowski (class 10).

Similarly, in the women’s singles, Poland enjoyed success as the favourites responded. Karolina Pek (class 9) and Natalia Partyka (class 10), duly prevailed, a situation that applied also to reigning world champions, Ukraine’s Maryna Lytovchenko (class 6) and Thu Kamkasomphou of France (class 7-8).

Titles for Poland, as play progressed, there was more success, Patryk Chojnowski, Natalia Partyka and Karolina Pek completed the clean sweep, Rafal Czuper adding to his collection.

In class 20, Natalia Partyka partnered Karolina Pek to women’s doubles gold, Patryk Chojnowski to the mixed doubles top prize.

Meanwhile, Piotr Grudzien proved the ideal partner; alongside Patryk Chojnowski the men’s doubles class 18 title was secured, partnering Karolina Pek, the same outcome in mixed doubles class 17.

Two titles for Piotr Grudzien, likewise for Rafal Czuper, the same for Frenchman Florian Merrien, Ukraine’s Maryna Lytovchenko and Dorota Nowacka, like Rafal Czuper from Poland.

Partnering colleague, Tomasz Jakimczuk, Rafal Czuper added to his men’s singles success by winning men’s doubles class 4; similarly, Florien Merrien and Nicolas Savant-Aira claimed men’s doubles class 8 gold.

Likewise, Maryna Lytovchanko secured mixed doubles class 14 gold alongside Viktor Didukh; in class 22, Dorota Nowacka partnered Krystyna Lisiak to women’s doubles, gold; Maciej Makajew to the mixed doubles top prize.

Notably, in the remaining men’s doubles events, there was success for Great Britain’s Aaron McKibbin and Martin Perry (class 14), Ukraine’s Lev Kats and Ivan Mai (class 18), as well as for Poland’s Damien Fira and Maciej Makajew (class 22).

Not to be overlooked, in women’s doubles class 14, there was gold for Romania’s Camelia Ciripan and Gabriela Contantin

Play concluded in Argostoli, attention now turns to ITTF Montenegro Para Championships 2023 commence in Podgorica on Thursday 4th April.

General News ITTF Fa20 Greek Para Open Para Table Tennis

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