International Events

A bouquet of upsets and surprises at WTT Contender Tunis

The first-ever WTT Series in Africa concluded with the WTT Contender Series in Tunisia. The winners in the singles events - Hana MATELOVA of the Czech Republic and Anton KALLBERG of Sweden - claimed their first WTT titles. MATELOVA's title is a first for the Czech Republic. In contrast, KALLBERG's win is the second title for Sweden after Truls MOREGARD won the Men's Singles title at WTT Contender Budapest in August.

MATELOVA and KALLBERG started their campaigns from the main draw, and both edged out top seeds on their way to the podium. Eighth seed MATELOVA edged out fourth and top seeds Nina MITTELHAM of Germany and Sofia POLCANOVA of Austria respectively in the quarter-final and semi-final of the Women's Singles. On the final day, she overcame Monaco's comeback queen, Xiaoxin YANG, with a 4-3 (11-9, 11-9, 10-12, 6-11, 11-7, 2-11, 11-4) win to emerge champion.

Following her triumph, MATELOVA said: "I will say my journey in Tunis has been amazing and incredible. This is my first WTT title, and it means a lot to me. I did not have a good season after the COVID-19 lockdown. I could not find myself. But now I am back, and it is amazing."

The 2019 Croatia Open champion, KALLBERG , was at his very best in his semi-final 4-3 win over second seed Quadri ARUNA of Nigeria. He was on the verge of defeat against ARUNA but fought back to win the tie at 4-3 ((10-12, 11-7, 8-11, 11-5, 4-11, 11-7, 11-7) in a match he admitted was the toughest for him in Tunis.

"The semi-final against Aruna was the toughest for me. It was a big match, which lasted almost until midnight. After that, I was really exhausted. But I was a bit more confident going into the final after the semi-final win," said the Swede.

However, Kallberg applied icing on that superlative performance with a 4-0 (13-11, 11-9, 11-7, 12-10) drubbing of the German, Dang Qiu, to emerge champion in the Men's Singles.

"I am very happy winning all four sets, but it was not an easy one. I am very happy. So many good and strong players played in this tournament. Winning it makes me happy. It is a confidence booster for me going forward," said KALLBERG .

The Women's Doubles final saw the Swedish pair of Linda Bergstrom and Christina KALLBERG claim their first WTT title in Tunis. They had only recently started their partnership three months ago. The second seeds defeated qualifiers Rachel MORET of Switzerland and Daria TRIGOLOS of Belarus 3-2 (10-12, 115-11-7, 7-11, 11-9) in the final.

"It was unexpected, and it is an amazing feeling because this is our second tournament since August when we started playing together in the doubles. We were a bit nervous in the first game, but we started dictating the game from the second set to win. The title means a lot to us being our first title, and it is a motivation to us to continue to play together to win more titles," said BERGSTROM.

India won their second WTT title after Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, and Harmeet Desai defeated Emmanuel Lebesson and Alexandre Cassin of France 3-1 (11-9, 4-11, 11-9, 11-6) in the final of the Men's doubles.

GNANASEKARAN and Manica BATRA won the Mixed Doubles title at the WTT Contender Budapest to give India their first WTT title. In Tunis, GNANASEKARAN claimed his second, this time with Desai in the Men's Doubles. In the Mixed Doubles, Emmanuel LEBESSON and JIA Nan Yuan of France justified their status as top seeds after coming back from 2-0 down to beat Belarus' Aleksandr KHANIN and Daria TRIGOLOS 3-2 (3-11, 9-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-9).

Impressive performances came from Croatia's Filip ZELJKO, who dumped top seed Patrick FRANZISKA of Germany from the quarter-final of the Men's Singles. Plus, teenage sensation Prithika PAVADE, a WTT Youth nominee, beat Romania's Adina DIACONU, former European Junior medallist, in the first round 3-0 (11-7, 11-9, 11-7). The 17-year-old also defeated the fifth-seeded and six-time African champion Dina MESHREF of Egypt 3-0 (12-10, 12-10, 11-4) to qualify for her first quarter-final at the WTT event.