The Portuguese Thriller: 2017 WTTC First Round stories

This thrilling story starts in the secondary hall of the 2017 World Table Tennis Championships with the Men’s Singles competition, Round of 128. Three Portuguese players playing at the same time, at neighbouring tables and all three of them looking for a spot in the Round of 64. Different expectations, different outcomes but something in common: an exciting and eye-catching spectacle.

The contenders

players

Having the lowest ranking position in the team is always going to be a challenge. Diogo Carvalho started the competition on the very first day in Qualification Group 62. He won his three matches, only losing two games, and qualified for the Preliminary Round. Once there, he beat Martin Allegro, from Belgium. The draw was not fair to him though, as he had to face Ruwen Filus, the local German defender who recently reached the German Championship final only to lose against Timo Boll.

Tiago Apolonia, on the other hand, qualified directly for the main draw as his ranking granted him the 16th seed. As a result, some pressure was on him to get through the first rounds of the competition and to reach the Round of 16, at least. Considering this, the match against Hong Kong’s NG Pak Nam should not have bothered him much.

Finally, Joao Geraldo had to try to improve on his international appearances. With the seed number 58, he could still only dream of reaching the last rounds of the Men’s Singles draw.  The luck of the draw determined he would face his training colleague at Ochsenhausen, Alvaro Robles, who knows him well and would not be an easy opponent to beat.

The matches

Diogo Carvalho VS Ruwen Filus

The expectation: an easy match for Ruwen Filus. The result: 2-4 (7-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-5, 5-11, 6-11) for Ruwen Filus. Although four of the sets were not very tight, the rallies and action that the seated crowd enjoyed were far from boring. The defending skills of the German player did not frighten Carvalho, who managed to win two sets and really put Ruwen under pressure.

The German player’s celebration, cheering for himself while facing his supporters, proves the importance of this victory, and how commendable the Portuguese player’s performance was against him.

You can enjoy the full match in the next video from the ITTF oficial streaming page:


filus

Tiago Apolonia VS NG Pak Nam

In this case, the expectation for the Portuguese player was to finish the match in something close to four straight games. The result: 3-4 (6-11, 11-8, 14-16, 11-7, 12-10, 12-14, 6-11) for NG Pak Nam.

The 19-year-old player from Hong Kong played smartly against Apolonia. He managed to place the ball in opposite corners of the table and tested the Portuguese player’s footwork, which caused him to make many unforced errors.

With 10-11 for Apolonia and 2-2 in the set score, we enjoyed one of best points of the day, where the Portuguese player came back from lobbing to attacking with his forehand and managed to score his third set. In the next set, he got to a 10-8 score and two match balls. A silly mistake and an exceptional forehand topspin by NG Pak Nam levelled the score, and the player from Hong Kong ended up winning that set, and the seventh, to make it one of the biggest upsets of the competition.

Full match available at the ITTF website linked here:


apolonia

Joao Geraldo VS Alvaro Robles

It’s difficult to determine the expectations of this match. Both are young players with steady growth over the last few years and they know each other well as they train together every day. A tight match would have been the most obvious thing to happen. The result: 4-3 (12-10, 11-7, 11-4, 5-11, 6-11, 6-11, 13-11) for Joao Geraldo.

Although it could seem like it was a very even match, it wasn’t really until the last set that it became so. As can be seen, the first three sets were for the Portuguese player, and seemed to be going far easier than expected. Quick attacks by Geraldo did not get much response from the Spanish player, who could not find a way to react to them. However, the trend changed in the fourth, and Robles took the initiative to score three games in a row and level the match.

The last set had both players in a different mood: Robles hoping to complete a notable comeback, while Geraldo had to find a way to recover his performance from the first sets. The first match ball was for the Portuguese player with 10-9, the second for the Spaniard, 10-11. None of them successful though, as the next one for Geraldo would serve him to win the last set, and consequently the match. It was a lucky point as the ball bounced on the line. This obviously annoyed Robles, who threw his racket and shook his head in disapproval.

You can watch the full match at the ITTF official website:


geraldo

 

The outcomes

Three players with three different emotions after their matches. While Apolonia’s disappointment is understandable, Carvalho’s defeat doesn’t feel so bad and Geraldo’s victory highlights many aspects to improve upon.

Only the latter, Geraldo, will keep competing in the main draw, along with Marcos Freitas and Joao Monteiro who qualified prior to him. The Portuguese thriller had a bittersweet ending but the stories to come might be sweeter.

Let the spectacle continue

Day 4 of the 2017 World Table Tennis Championships will bring loads of excitement to German soil. With the number of tables already reduced to 8, the following are the competitions and rounds to be played today:

  • Mixed Doubles: Round 3 & quarter-finals
  • Women’s Doubles: Round 3
  • Men’s Doubles: Round 3
  • Women’s Singles: Round 3
  • Men’s Singles: Round 2

All big names today again: Ma Long, Ding Ning, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Xu Xin, Feng Tianwei… so good!

Stay tuned to the action today at:

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* Cover photo: ITTF

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