Battle for qualification begins, standout performances lead to shock outcomes in Doha
The fans at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena in Doha, Qatar were treated to a thrilling day of table tennis on Tuesday 21st February as qualification matches for the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open got underway.
Alongside the qualification matches for the Men's and Women's Singles competitions there was also action from both the Under 21 Men's and Women's events, which brought the day to a close with quarter-final encounters.
Just the one round of Women’s Singles qualifying group stage ties took place on the day, with all 16 groups featuring match play.
Barbora Balazova of the Slovak Republic is placed at no.77 in the ITTF World Rankings table for February 2017, and headed to Doha off the back of making an appearance at the 2017 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup competition hosted in Antibes, France.
However, Balazova’s opening match at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open produced an unexpected defeat for the Slovak player as her Polish opponent Kinga Stefanska, who is ranked 125th in the world, came through the match with a stunning 4-3 victory (11-13, 9-11, 11-9, 4-11, 13-11, 11-6, 11-8) to take the early advantage in the group.
Two additional shock results came in Group 3 and Group 8 as the lower ranked players dramatically prevailed.
Austria’s Amelie Solja saw off the world no.79 from Chinese Taipei Lee I-Chen across seven games (11-4, 11-9, 6-11, 7-11, 11-8, 9-11, 15-13) in Group 3, while in Group 9 Andrea Todorovich, who represents Serbia, defeated a player ranked over 60 places higher than her in the world, Lin Ye of Singapore in six games (8-11, 11-8, 10-12, 15-13, 11-9, 11-9).
There were a number of major surprises in the Men’s Singles qualifying group stage on Tuesday 21st February as two players unexpectedly sealed top spot in their respective groups.
Frenchman Abdel-Kader Salifou was the lowest ranked contestant in Group 2 and the world no.130 opened his campaign in Doha with a positive display against Belgium’s Robin Devos (11-5, 11-6, 15-17, 11-7, 5-11, 11-4) to get off to a strong start, however, the best from Abdel-Kader Salifou was still to come as he went on to stun the world no.24 Yuto Muramatsu of Japan in straight games (11-9, 11-7, 12-10, 11-5).
Tomislav Pucar also enjoyed a sensational day at the Seamaster 2017 Qatar Open, as the Croatian representative not only overcame Korea Republic’s Park Ganghyeon in five ends (9-11, 12-10, 11-8, 12-10, 11-8), but also added another big scalp to his name when he beat the world no.20 Tang Peng by a 4-1 scoreline (11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9) to take first position in Group 1.
“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.
Success in the Men’s Singles qualifying group stage for Tomislav Pucar was matched in the Under 21 Men’s Singles competition, as he defied the odds once again with a superb victory over the top seed Ho Kwan Kit (11-8, 8-11, 11-6, 8-11, 11-3) to book his spot in the semi-finals. The other standout result was produced by France’s Andrea Landrieu who beat Park Ganghyeon despite losing the opening game to the Korean player (3-11, 11-8, 11-9, 9-11, 11-7).
The Under 21 Women’s Singles draw has gone according to plan so far for the no.1 seed Doo Hoi Kem after the Hong Kong star comfortably defeated Japan’s Miyu Maeda across three games (11-8, 11-7, 13-11) in her quarter-finals match, however, the same cannot be said for the second seeded player Zeng Jian following her shock exit to Kyoka Kato in the deciding end (13-11, 10-12, 11-7, 8-11, 11-9). Saki Shibata and Soo Wai Yam Minnie were the two other players to advance through to the last four.