In the thrilling finish Portugal halted CroatiaPhoto: Rémy Gros ITTF
The LIEBHERR 2017 European Championships continued to entertain on day 3 with a huge surprise, an entertaining finish, and some intriguing news for our table tennis fans.
The big surprise of the day was in the Men's Team quarter finals where Slovenia made it through to the semi-final for the first time at the European Championships. In an inspired effort, they defeated Sweden in a 3-2 thriller. Leader for the Slovenian team, Bojan TOKIC, won both matches though was pushed 3-2 by Anton KALLBERG. Darko JORGIC who secured the win for Slovenia with a solid 3-1 victory over Par GERELL summarised the emotions "we tried to fight and we gave our best, but nobody was waiting for this result, so I think everyone from Slovenia is very happy." In the semi-final tomorrow at 19:00 they will take on Germany who powered passed Ukraine 3-0, and despite a straight sets win in his singles, Timo BOLL wasn't completely happy "in some parts of the match I didn't play well, I had a good start, Kou LEI is a strong player, if you let him play he is dangerous. Fortunately, I was able to control the match."
The big finish of the evening was another thriller in the Men's Team with the togetherness of Portugal seeing off a determined effort by Croatia. Marcos FREITAS secured the overall team match score 3-1 with a hard fought 3-2 win against Andrej GACINA who had earlier defeated Tiago APOLONIA by the same score. Marcus commented, "he (GACINA) is my doubles partner through mini and cadet tournaments, we practiced together and we are close friends. I know he wants to win a medal for his country. There wasn't an easy point as we know each other's serves and top-spins very well." Portugal will play France who came through very comfortably against Greece without losing a game. Quentin ROBINOT of France appraised his team's performance "I think that from the beginning we were prepared for this fight. Simon started the match very well 3-0 and then the tough match between LEBESSON and GIONIS which Emmanuel won. So I was very confident that we lead 2-0 so it's easier for me to play. My opponent played well, but today I played better than him. I just focused on his forehand because I don't like so the pimpled side so much, then I fight and I play better and better. We are a strong team because we like each other and train a lot. And then it is easy to play with friends. We are happy with this medal but we will fight for gold."
In the Women's Team Quarter Finals there was a superb performance by the young Netherlands team, defeating Austria 3-2. In the final match, it was Britt EERLAND who pulled out the stops to secure an emphatic 3-0 first time win against the favourite LIU Jia. A delighted LI Jie, who won both her singles matches (3-2 against LIU Jia in the opener, and 3-0 against Sofia POLCANOVA), put the result into perspective "this victory is a very big thing for us because we are a new team. Li Jiao is now our coach, we are a young team, and to be in the quarter-finals was our goal so we can be very happy that we won this knockout match."
The Netherlands will now take on Germany in the semi-final who accounted for Poland 3-0 with relatively easy victories for HAN Ying (3-1 against LI Qian), SHAN Xiaona (3-0 against Katarzyna GRZYBOWSKA-FRANC), and Nina MITTELHAM (3-1 against Natalia PARTYKA).
Russia reached the other semi-final with another 3-1 victory in these Championships, this time against Hungary. In the first match Polina MIKHAILOVA of Russia defeated Dora MADARASZ 11-9 in the deciding fifth game. Another 3-2 followed, this time Georgina POTA levelling the match for Hungary against Olga VOROBEVA. Then two 3-1 wins for Yana NOSKOVA and Polina MIKHAILOVA sealed the victory for Russia. Polina MIKHAILOVA commented "we were satisfied that we qualified for the Quarter Finals in first place from our group yesterday and we are glad to win the match against Hungary. We won't stop fighting in the next matches but we will play under less pressure for a medal."
Russia will play Romania at 13:00 tomorrow in the bottom half semi-final. Romania won 3-0 against Portugal, although the opening two matches between Daniela MONTEIRO DODEAN (Romania) & YU Fu (Portugal) and Elizabeta SAMARA (Romania) & SHAO Jieni (Portugal) both went the distance five games. An easier outing for Bernadette SZOCS (Romania) winning 3-0 against Portugal's Leila OLIVEIRA to complete the victory, adding "I think that our team is in a really good mood and shape and we are mentally prepared."
Full semi-finals line-up
Germany versus Netherlands at 10:00
Russia versus Romania at 13:00
France versus Portugal at 16:00
Germany versus Slovenia at 19:00
In other big news today, results have confirmed further qualifiers from Europe for the World Championships in Halmstad, Sweden next April. In the Women's Teams, 8 qualifiers include Azerbaijan, Slovenia, Italy, England, Turkey, Lithuania, Greece, and Belgium. In the Men's Teams, 7 qualifiers are Hungary, Turkey, Lithuania, Netherlands, Switzerland, Israel, and Finland.
So, will Luxembourg provided more fireworks on Day 4, semi-final Saturday? We'll see you tomorrow to find out!
To note is live coverage continues tomorrow on Eurosport.
And of course, you can always continue to follow the live scoring and match scores at ettu.org, and keep up-to-date with us on social media, Facebook (European Table Tennis Union), Twitter (@ETTU_Ttennis), and Instagram (ettu_official).