Man of the moment, opening day belongs to Tomislav Pucar
The opening day of play in Doha, Tuesday 20th February; it belonged to Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar.
In the Men’s Singles qualification tournament for the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open; he created a major upset. Later in the day he followed suit in the Under 21 Men’s Singles event.
Furthermore, on both occasions he beat the top player and on both occasions a player from Hong Kong.
Currently listed at no.111 on the Men’s World Ranking list, after having beaten a dangerous opponent in the guise of Korea’s Park Ganghyeon, named at no.115 in his opening match in the group phase of the Men’s Singles event, he caused a major upset.
He beat Hong Kong’s Tang Peng, the highest rated player on duty in the qualification event and presently named at no.20 in the global order. Impressively, just as he beat Park Ganghyeon in five games (9-11, 12-10, 11-8, 12-10, 11-8), he did the same when confronting Tang Peng (11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9).
“Tang Peng plays aggressively but he does not shout like many other players; it was quite hard to adapt to the manner in which he plays”, Tomislav Pucar.
The win means that after the initial day of action, Tomislav Pucar is only of only two players guaranteed first place in their respective groups. The other is Frenchman, Abdel-Kader Salifou who, like Tomislav Pucar, caused an upset.
Impressively he accounted for Belgium’s Robin Devos in his opening encounter (11-5, 11-6, 15-17, 11-7, 5-11, 11-4), prior to overcoming Japan’s Yuto Muramatsu, the second highest listed player in the qualification event (11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9).
Quite a turn round of fortunes; on the present day Men’s World Ranking, Abdel-Kader at no.130 is the lowest ranked member of the trio. Robin Devos is at no.124, Yuto Muramatsu at no.24.
Success in the Men’s Singles qualification competition; later in the day it was Under 21 Men’s Singles success.
At the quarter-final stage, the no.8 seed, he overcame Tang Peng’s colleague, Ho Kwan Kit, the top seed (11-8, 8-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-3) to reserve his place in the penultimate round. Earlier in the day he had ousted Belgium’s Martin Allegro, the no.18 seed (11-8, 11-8, 11-5), followed by success in opposition to Korea’s Kim Minhyeok (11-8, 11-5, 11-7).
A surprise win, it was an even greater surprise when past results against Ho Kwan Kit were considered. On the two occasions they had met prior to the meeting in Doha, Ho Kwan Kit prevailed at the Wisdom 2014 World Championships and at the more recent Perfect 2016 World Team Championships. Notably both matches had needed the full five games to determine the winner.
“Again we went to a fifth game, I tried to make sure I stayed calm; we both of return service using the banana backhand, so I made sure that I served long sometimes to create a variation”, Tomislav Pucar.
The so-called “banana” is the modern day technique of receiving which has been played short to the forehand with the forearm vertical and racket circumnavigating the ball.
One upset art the semi-final stage of the Under 21 Men’s Singles event; there were two more.
Frenchman, Andréa Landrieu, the no.16 seed, accounted for Korea’s Park Ganghyeon, the no.7 seed (3-11, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 11-7). Arguably less of a surprise and moreover good news for Hong Kong, Lam Siu Hang, the no.12 seed, ended the hopes of Japan’s Asuka Sakai, the no.11 seed (12-10, 11-7, 11-8).
Three surprises, in the one further Under 21 Men’s Singles quarter-final, the result was as status predicted. Cho Seungmin, the no.3 seed and like Park Ganghyeon from Korea, caused Japan more pain. He defeated Mizuki Oikawa the no.5 seed in tense full distance five games duel (13-11, 8-11, 8-11, 11-9, 13-11).
At the semi-final stage Tomislav Pucar meets Cho Seungmin; Lam Siu Hang opposes Andréa Landrieu.