Difficult start for home favourite Emmanuel LEBESSONPhoto: Rémy Gros ITTF
Draw for group stages of the 2017 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup announced
The draw for the 2017 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup group stages was conducted at the Azur Arena in Antibes, France and as it is to be expected there were eight positively exciting group drawn across the Men’s and Women’s Singles competitions.
Emmanuel LEBESSON stunned the table tennis world stage in October of last year when he defied the odds to capture the Men’s Singles title at the LIEBHERR 2016 European Championships in Budapest.
Now, LEBESSON is preparing to participate in his first Europe Top 16 competition and a baptism of fire awaits for the Frenchman after his name was drawn alongside Vladimir SAMSONOV, Tiago APOLONIA and KOU Lei in Group B.
However, LEBESSON is looking forward to the challenge ahead and is hoping to extend his stay at the competition beyond the group stage.
“We knew before the tournament that it was going to be a tough group, because only good players will be here. But I will try tomorrow to do the best that I can. I play all the time against these types of players and I will see how I go. I am not the favourite but I will try”, Emmanuel LEBESSON.
Another eye catching group sees the no.3 seed Timo BOLL joined by Stefan FEGERL, Mattias KARLSSON and Panagiotis GIONIS.
Boll is making his 11th appearance at the tournament, but this will be the German player’s first participation at the event since it expanded from 12 to 16 players in 2015. Five time champion Boll has experience playing against FEGERL and GIONIS, but is approaching his match with KARLSSON with caution.
“I know Stefan and Panagiotis are very good, Stefan is my teammate and Panagiotis played in my team for a few years but Mattias KARLSSON is the big question for me I’ve never played him and he has an unusual style so this will be quite challenging already in the first game.”, Timo BOLL.
Elsewhere in the Men’s Singles event Portugal’s Marcos FREITAS, Sweden’s Kristian KARLSSON, Croatia’s Andej GACINA and Russia’s Alexander SHIBAEV have been drawn into Group D, while the top seed from Germany and reigning champion Dimitrij OVTCHAROV has been named in Group A with France’s Simon GAUZY, Portugal’s Joao MONTEIRO and Jonathan GROTH of Denmark.
Earlier in the day Barbora BALAZOVA of the Slovak Republic was brought in as a replacement for Kristin SILBEREISEN who withdrew her name from the tournament due to illness.
BALAZOVA will make her debut at the event on Friday, but she will need to be at her very best to negotiate a difficult group against Austria’s Liu Jia, Germany’s Sabine Winter and Polina MIKHAILOVA of Russia.
The player to occupy the top two places in each group will progress to the final eight, and Group D looks likely to see an upset or two before its conclusion as LI Jie of the Netherlands will face a tough challenge from the likes of Poland’s Li Qian, Victoria Pavlovich of Belarus and late entry Bernadette SZOCS who has travelled to the competition following the withdrawal from fellow Romanian player Elizabeta SAMARA.
HU Melek enjoyed a fantastic year in 2016 and the European Women’s Singles champion from Turkey will require all of her skill in Group A of the 2017 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup with fixtures against Hungary’s Georgina Pota, Romania’s Daniela MONTEIRO DODEAN and Austria’s Sofia POLCANOVA. Group C has pitted Petrissa SOLJA, Matilda EKHOLM, Tetyana BILENKO and French player Stephanie LOEUILLETTE together.
The 2017 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup Men’s and Women’s Singles group stages will be played out on Friday 3rd February.