LINDA BERGSTROM exceed her rankingsPhoto: Rémy Gros
European Games 2019 Minsk
In the Round of 16 in the Women's Singles Event at the European Games in Minsk, Linda BERGSTROM of Sweden seeded at the position no. 26 overcame no. 6 seed Hungary’s Georgina POTA in straight games (11-6, 11-4, 11-8, 15-13). The only time Georgina came close was in the fourth game.
“I knew how good is she, so I got nothing to lose. I was focused on my game; I tried to put the balls to all corners of the table, to play with lot of variations and use my forehand as much as I can. I got her out of the rhythm and kept her out of her pace. However, in the fourth game I did not change the game, POTA adjusted, she played to my backhand and narrowed the difference. I made easy mistake at 10:9, then got lucky with one point…but generally I was three games in advance and I knew I have the space if something went wrong. I was under pressure, but not severe,” explained Linda.
LI Jie of Netherlands, no. 7 seed overcame SHAO Jieni of Portugal seeded at the position 28 (9-11, 9-11, 11-6, 12-10, 13-15, 11-5, 11-7). Portugal’s player did not go easy. She had advantage 2:0, before LI recovered.
“I played three times against her and I lost in one occasion. She is very fast. I needed some time to adjust my game. I recovered, but her service game is very strong, so my only option was to attack. I could not risk with defense,” explained LI.
Portugal’s YU Fu justified her rankings. No. 8 seed overcame Ukraine’s Hanna GAPONOVA listed at position no. 28 (11-3, 11-5, 11-7, 9-11, 11-7).
Bronze medal winner in 2013 in singles at the European Championships, Germany’s HAN Ying beat Austria’s medalist from Alicante, Sofia POLCANOVA in straight games, but each was very close (12-10, 13-11, 13-11, 11-8).
“It was close, because in each game POLCANOVA commenced with new tactics. She did not play in her usual style and she changed the game in each set. That gave her little advantage, but I had good record against her and I was very confident. I managed to recover every time,” explained HAN.
Good skills against players with defensive style proved as a very valuable currency in Minsk. Monaco’s YANG Xiaoxin overcame Viktoria PAVLOVICH of Belarus in straight games (12-10, 11-5, 11-7, 11-7) to disappoint the crowd in Belarus.
“I love to play against players with defensive style, but you never know what is going to be. They are all different. Viktoria never attacks, her style is very specific. I had to change my rhythm, to change everything, service, receive…It was difficult match whatever results predicted,” said YANG.
Following the defeat of no. two seed, Sofia POLCANOVA, seeded one place below at position no, 3, Matilda EKHOLM of Sweden also faced early exit. In the Round of 16 Russia’s Polina MIKHAILOVA emerged victoriously (5-11, 13-11, 11-9, 8-11, 11-5, 7-11, 8-11).
Matilda put Polina under severe pressure, but MIKHAILOVA survived.
“I never won against Matilda and we played so many times against each other. When I managed to win the opening game, that give me slight advance. It boosted my confidence and I think it affected her game too. She made mistakes on first ball, which is not usuall. Also, I had my downs. I lost second game after had 10-8, and after that I lost third very easy. When we reached decisive game I told myself ‘yell, shout, do whatever it takes, just win’. Even I did not know how I managed,” said MIKHAILOVA.
In next round she will meet YANG Xiaoxin.
“Good thing is that we played against each other in French League. l I know her style. I beat her once and lost in two occasions, but nevertheless I know how to prepare myself.”
The Women’s Singles Event is shattered by upsets. Romania’s Bernadette SZOCS, no one seed suffered by the hands of NI Xiao Lian of Luxembourg (7-11, 8-11, 9-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-8, 7-11).
“This is a crazy game that makes everyone nervous,” smiled NI after the match. ”I had a chance to finish the duel in the fifth game, but I lost my focus. In next game, Bernadette was really good, but when the decisive game came, I had a better ‘head’. SZOCS is very young and she improves her game with each tournament, but sometimes the experience could help a little. Everybody come prepared here, there is no doubt about it, but sometimes the pressure is to high,” said NI.
Petrissa SOLJA maintained her patience to overcame defensive skills of European champion, Poland’s LI Qian (14-12, 8-11, 12-10, 6-11, 11-5, 10-12, 5-11) in seven thrilling games.
“I expected long match, that was the only way to beat her. Otherwise it will not be good. In opening game and in third one she beat me by narrow margin, she even had a match ball, but I changed the tactics. I did not go for 100 percent clear shot. I tried to put as many balls at the table as it needs to look for safer opportunity. I was looking for longer rallies., Also, I had German team to support me; people from Olympic committee and other sports. It was something special,” said SOLJA.