07 May 2023

Imposing performances in exalted company catch the eye

Complete outsiders, not seeded, China’s Liu Fu and Chile’s Ignacio Torres, alongside Japan’s Katsuyoshi Yagi emerged the shock men’s singles winners at the ITTF Montenegro Para Championships 2023, play concluding in Podgorica on Sunday 7th May.

Liu Fu won class 5, Ignacio Torres class 6 and Katsuyoshi Yagi class 7, to secure their first ever such titles at an open international Para tournament.

Most impressively Liu Fu, bronze medallist at the 2019 Asian Para Championships in Taichung, accounted for the two leading names on duty, both Paralympic Games gold medallists.

Furthermore, on each occasion he recorded straight games wins. In the group stage he beat Norway’s Tommy Urhaug, the top seed and winner in 2012 in London (11-8, 12-10, 11-7); in the final, he overcame Cao Ningning, the no.2 seed, successful four years later in Rio de Janeiro (11-8, 12-10, 11-7).

Liu Fu, the surprise men’s singles class 5 winner (Photo: Draganfilm)


Good form maintained throughout, it was the same from Ignacio Torres. At the final hurdle he beat Frenchman, Esteban Herrault, the no.3 seed (11-8, 8-11, 11-8, 11-7), the semi-final winner in opposition to Romania’s Bobi Simion, the no.2 seed (11-7, 12-10, 9-11, 7-11, 11-6).  One round earlier, Bobi Simion, who had finished in second place in his group, had ousted Christian Dettoni, the top seed, like Ignacio Torres from Chile (11-5, 4-11, 12-10, 7-11, 11-6).

Success by prevailing against highly ranked names, it was the same for Katsuyoshi Yagi; in the penultimate round he overcame Jean-Paul Montanus of the Netherlands, the top seed (13-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-8), prior to securing gold at the expense of Brazil’s Israel Stroh, the no.3 seed (13-11, 11-4, 10-12, 9-11, 11-7).

Notably, Israel Stroh was very much a player in form, at the semi-final stage he had beaten China’s Liao Keli (9-11, 11-8, 11-7, 7-11, 11-6), the quarter-final winner in opposition to colleague Yan Shuo, the no.2 seed and reigning Paralympic Games champion (11-4, 11-4, 13-11).

Surprise outcomes in the men’s singles and there was one more but not of great magnitude. In class 5, Slovakia’s Boris Travincek, the no.5 seed, accounted for Spain’s Francisco Lopez, the top seed (11-8, 11-13, 7-11, 11-8, 11-5) to secure the top prize.

Boris Travincek, the men’s singles class 4 winner (Photo: Draganfilm)


Otherwise, it was gold for the favourites; Frenchman Fabien Lamirault (class 1-2), China’s Feng Panfeng (class 3) and Zhao Shuai (class 8) justified their top seeded positions, as did Japan’s Koyo Iwabuchi (class 9) and the host nation’s Filip Radovic (class 10).

Success for the most prominent names, in the women’s singles, the favourites held sway; the one minor upset being in a class 10 group organised event won by China’s Zhao Xiaojing, the no.2 seed and Asian champion in both 2017 and 2019.

Unbeaten, she inflicted the one defeat on Brazil’s Bruna Alexandre (11-7, 1-11, 11-9, 11-8), the top seed and winner earlier this year in Lignano and São Paulo.

Gold for Zhao Xiaojing; as anticipated it was gold for colleagues Liu Jing (class 1-2), Zhang Bian (class 5), Mao Jingdian (class 8) and Xiong Guiyan (class 9). Similarly, Croatia’s Andela Muzinic (class 3), Germany’s Sandra Mikolaschek (class 4) and Kelly van Zon from the Netherlands (class 6-7) justified their status.

Thumbs up from Zhao Xiaojing, the women’s singles class 10 winner (Photo: Draganfilm)


Titles for China, in the doubles’ events, the success level was even higher; in each discipline just one title proved elusive, the thorn in the side being France.

Fabien Lamirault and Julien Michaud claimed the men’s doubles class 4 gold; Lucie Hautière and Morgen Caillaud prevailed in women’s doubles class 14, Florian Merrien and Flora Vatier succeded in mixed doubles class 7.

Otherwise, there was no stopping China, the performance to note being in men’s doubles class 14; once again France being involved but on this occasion for a different reason. At the semi-final stage the unbeaten record of Clément Bérthier and Esteban Herrault came to an end; the winners on each appearance in 2023, succeeding in Egypt, Lignano, Costa Brava and Brazil, they were beaten in the penultimate round by Liao Keli and Yan Shuo (12-10, 12-10, 11-9).

Impressively, Liao Keli and Yan Shuo secured the title, at the final hurdle they accounted for colleagues Chen Chao and Huang Jiaxin (8-11, 11-4, 12-10, 4-11, 11-5).

A full house for Yan Shuo (Photo: Draganfilm)


Success for Liao Keli and Yan Shuo; in the remaining men’s doubles, it was gold for Cao Ningning and Feng Panfeng (class 8), also for Lian Hao and Zhao Shuai (class 18)

Likewise, in the women’s doubles it was the top prize for Liu Jing and Xue Juan (class 5), Gu Ciaodon and Pan Jiamin (class 10), as well as for Xiong Guiyan and Zhao Xiaojing (class 20). Additionally, also in class 20, Zhao Xiaojing partnered Zhao Yi Qing to mixed doubles success.

Meanwhile, in the remaining mixed doubles events, there were titles for Wang Zhenwen and Yang Zhonghui (class 4), Cao Ningning and Zhang Bian (class 10), Yan Shuo and Wang Rui (class 14), as well as for Zhao Shuai  and Liu Mei Li (class 17).

Two titles for Zhao Shuai and Zhao Xiaojing on the concluding day of play, added to their respective men’s singles and women’s singles titles gained earlier in the proceedings, meant each left Podgorica with the full house.

Play concluded in Podgorica; attention now turns to Lasko, the five-day ITTF Slovenia Para Open commences on Tuesday 9th May.

A successful visit to Podgorica for Cao Ningning, one silver ant two gold (Photo: Draganfilm)


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