German ladies booked three placesPhoto: Linda KARLSSON
2016 ITTF-European Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Swedish city of Halmstad
The third day and phase one in the 2016 ITTF-European Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Swedish city of Halmstad concluded; the eight players who won the finals in their respective groups of each of the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles events are known.
All eight names in Women’s Event came from the list of Top 16 seeds; despite a lot of surprises in the earlier stages of the tournament, none of qualifiers survived the final clashes. The eight players eligible for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are: HAN Ying, SHAN Xiaona and Petrissa SOLJA of Germany, HU Melek of Turkey, YU Fu of Portugal, LI Qian of Poland, Polina MIKHAILOVA of Russia and LIU jia of Austria.
With impressive 4:0 win over LI Fen, LI Qian was the first to booked her place for third Olympic Games.
“I am so happy. I had a two years break after giving birth to my baby. Now I am back in full shape. New balls demands great physical power and harder training and it took me a time to adjust,” said LI.
Polina MIKHALOVA overcame player in form, Gabriela FEHER of Serbia.
“My dream comes true. I worked so hard for this. Of course, I was little less under pressure, since my rankings guarantee the place for Rio, but still it is nice to win this way. Unlike other defenders I adjust very well on new balls. I played very good at the European Championships and it was the same here, “ said Polina.
YU Fu of Portugal will be at the Olympics for a first time. On her way to Rio, at the final hurdle she beat Daniela DODEAN MONTEIRO.
“My service game was perfect and it gave me a lot of self confidence. Sometimes I am too afraid, but today I felt relaxed, like I am at the training. I was very focused,” said YU.
Petrissa SOLJA overcame Slovakia’s Eva ODOROVA.
“Before the match I did not know what to wish. I saw BILENKO and ODOROVA playing and I was afraid of ODOROVA’s style. We have never met before. In the opening game it took me some time to adjust. It finished close, with 11:9, but after that I found the game to win,” explained SOLJA.
SHAN Xiaona of Germany overcame LI Xue of France.
“I like to play against players with the defensive style, but of course I was little cautious, because this is very difficult tournament,” explained SHAN.
HU Melek admitted she needed a lot of inner strength to overcome the pressure in Halmstad.
“Tactics is important, but you have to stay calm and to cope with the enormous pressure. I suffered in two opening games and I needed time to recover. I was so nervous; rushed into the points. After I slowed down I started to win,” said HU.
HAN Ying overcame Iveta VACENOVSKA of Czech Republic, after she was three games in reverse.
“The balls make me so much problems. I had the change the whole style of play. I struggled at the beginning of the match against Iveta; I could not make a spin,” said HAN.
LIU Jia beat Barbora BALAZOVA of Slovakia by very narrow margin in seventh game.
“I was surprised by her game. She took it to the next level. I was afraid I would have to play again tomorrow. I really did not want that to happen. I lost three sets at 10. Usually I am good in this type of situations, but as I said, BALAZOVA played very well,” said LIU who is most experienced traveler to Rio among the eight qualifiers; she will play at the Olympics for a fifth time.
LI Jie was the biggest name to suffered defeat in the semi final. Daniela DODEAN MONTEIRO of Romania created a big upset by beating the no. five seed in straight games.
“In the morning, Anamaria ERDELJI told me she is struggling to find the game with the new balls. It seams it is not working well for the players with the defending style. I saw my chance there. I have never beat LI before even when I was two, or even three games ahead. This is the first time. I am so happy it happened at such crucial moment,” said DODEAN MONTEIRO.
The joy of Romania team soon was overshadowed by the defeat of the no. 7 seed, European singles Champions Elizabeta SAMARA. Samara suffered by the hands of Gabriela FEHER of Serbia.
“After 3:0, I could not believe myself what is going on. I know SAMARA, sometimes she has a tendency to make mistakes in fear, so I pushed her hard. At some point she recovered, but I did not want to give her chance to win,” said FEHER.
Gabriela FEHER also upset the rankings by beating Ganna GAPONOVA of Ukraine without losing the game to reach the semi final.
At the quarterfinal stage we already saw departure of two favorites in Women’s Singles. The host country’s leading player Matilda EKHOLM , listed at no.60 on the current Women’s World Rankings overcame Seeded no. 14 (WR 54) Sofia POLCANOVA of Austria. She did it in fantastic style – in straight games.