European Championships | 15 Sep 2023
2023 STUPA European Table Tennis Championships quarterfinals
The sixth day at the 2023 STUPA European Table Tennis Championships in Malmö brought the matches that determines who will reach the medal rostrum.
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Sweden – Hungary 3-2
In a nail-biting five-match thriller, Sweden booked their place in the semis. Hungary led 2-1 in matches, and in the decisive match, Bence MAJOROS was up 2-0 against Kristian KARLSSON, but by the narrowest of margins, the host nation finished the day victoriously.
Truls MOREGAARD beat Bence MAJOROS in the opening match in straight games. The game between Adam SZUDI and Kristian KARLSSON was a contrast to the opening match. SZUDI beat KARLSSON in a long-distance duel.
Tamas LAKATOS needed one game less to overcome Anton KALLBERG. Truls MOREGAARD recorded a second win against SZUDI to create a chance for KARLSSON to play the decisive match.
MAJOROS played superbly, and despite top-class play, KARLSSON struggled to stop him in the two opening games. Fantastic points went from one side to another, and from the third game, Kristian held the grip. He won the third game easily before MAJOROS raised the pressure. The last two games KARLSSON won by the narrowest of margins.
Coach Jörgen PERSSON commented: "The adversary felt victory in the lead 2-0 in games and match points in the tiebreaker. It is impossible to analyze and explain why we won. What you can say is that Kristian KARLSSON kept calm and turned around two deficits, showing that we have good strength in the team."
Truls MOREGAARD said: “I don't think I have played such an intensive match, and I was extremely nervous. I think I played well and had two stable victories to help our team win. I handled the situation in a very good way."
Kristian KARLSSON said: “What pressure. Being able to win in this way shows that we are strong. It could benefit us that we could turn a slight deficit into a profit. Hungary played at their highest level, and I have had a hard time with Adam SZUDI in the past.”
Portugal – Denmark 3-2
Portugal booked the plkace in the semi final after 3-1 win over Denmark.
Marcos FREITAS withstood Anders LIND's spirited comeback from 0-2 to 2-2. Supported by numerous Danish fans, LIND came back to push for the decider, but Marcos remained focused and sealed the duel.
“LIND has been performing at the top level in the last couple of months. He has a very difficult and unusual style, so I knew it would be tough to beat him. I started well, took a safe 2-0 lead, but he stepped up his game. After he leveled, I knew I had to stay calm and stick to my game; try to put the ball on the table. In the decisive game, I was mentally stronger, and I am very happy with this victory.”
LIND reacted badly to the defeat and kicked the LED screen that display the results. As a consequence, he was penalized with a red card and disqualified.
Jonathan GROTH overcame Tiago APOLONIA in a match that lasted only three games. The game was interrupted a few times because Tiago could not stop the bleeding from a cut on his finger.
“It was a small cut, but we needed some time to stop the bleeding. GROTH played at a high level; we know each other very well. Some time ago, we played together in Saarbrucken. It was a long time ago, but for sure we are familiar with each other's style of play. Today, he won the match deservedly. My injury disturbed me a little at the beginning of the second game, but overall, he was better,” said APOLONIA.
Joao GERALDO needed a few points to get into rhythm against Tobias RASMUSSEN, but after that, the match was heading only one direction.
“At the end, we were in a strange situation. In case of my win, we would win, but even if I lost, we had another chance with Marcos. It would be like 2-2. It took off some pressure from me,” said GERALDO. “I did not start quite well, but as the game progressed, I found my rhythm. It was very important that I won the opening game. It set the course of the match and gave me an advantage.”
Since LIND was disqualified, Portugal secured victory. FREITAS and GROTH started the match, but Marcos withdrew.
In the semis, Portugal will meet Germany.
“It is one of Europe's classics. We have played against each other so many times in the closing stages of the Championships. They are one of the best teams in Europe. They are not with the strongest team, but still, they reached the semis. They won a very close match against Croatia. One thing is sure, we will give our best to beat them tomorrow,” promised FREITAS.
France - Belgium 3-1
Felix LEBRUN recorded two wins against Adrien RASSENFOSSE and Cedric NUYTINCK to help France move to the semi-final. Alexis LEBRUN overcame NUYTINCK, whilst Martin ALLEGRO recorded one win for Belgium in the duel against Jules ROLLAND.
Felix LEBRUN was content with the victory: "I'm definitely happy that we could win, and we've made it through to the semifinals. I'm in good shape, although I know I have a lot of room for improvement."
Felix recorded a sixth win out of six matches . Against Cedric, he was particularly lethal.
“I scored most of my points with my fast, flat backhand. That's my tactic, and I was aware that Cedric NUYTINCK tried to put pressure on my forehand. He has good spin, and he knows how to make it difficult for me. I'm familiar with his playing style, so I tried to return the ball more slowly to counter that.”
Younger brother LEBRUN added: “We will be watching the Sweden-Hungary match tonight, and to win the semifinal, we'll have to perform at our best."
Germany - Croatia 3-2
Germany's quintet led by Timo BOLL secured the 20th medal for a German men's team at European Championships. In the quarter-finals of the 42nd continental championships the team faced their toughest challenge yet. They beat team ranked as no. 7 in Europe, Croatia in an almost three-hour rollercoaster of emotions. After temporarily trailing 1-2, BOLL, Benedikt DUDA, and Ricardo WALTHER managed to win 3-2. Record European champion BOLL won two matches.
"We knew beforehand that it would be a very, very tough game. And that's exactly how it turned out. It was on a knife's edge. What mattered was that we always believed in ourselves, especially 'Benne' fought on and fortunately won it in the end," said Coach HIELSCHER.
"We are very relieved that we somehow managed to do it. The Croatians put up a strong fight. It was not easy to play against them, but we were aware of that," said Timo BOLL. "Personally, it was an improvement for me compared to the last few days. I'm naturally pleased about that. In the first match, I also had some luck with many net and edge balls going in my favor."
The Düsseldorfer referred to his opening match against the world's 40th-ranked player, Tomislav PUCAR, which he won in four fiercely contested sets. Despite being down 0-1, the Croatians played exceptionally well. Benedikt DUDA lost to this year's European Games semi-finalist, 37-year-old Andrej GACINA, in three clear sets, just like Ricardo WALTHER, who fell to 26-year-old Filip ZELJKO.
BOLL then silenced the Croatian bench, winning the 18th encounter with his career-long rival GACINA with a controlled 11:8, 11:8, and 11:5. The deciding match between DUDA and PUCAR was closely contested and ended in the fifth set.
"I could accept that Andrej GACINA played superbly against me and made no mistakes at all. So, I tried to put the first match behind me," explained two-time Team European champion "Benne" DUDA his attitude before the final match. "In the deciding match against PUCAR, it was a completely new game. It was a tough fight against the Croatians, and I'm very happy that we won."
Portugal – Sweden 3-1
Portugal inflicted pain in the hearts of the host nation's supporters as they advanced to the semifinals. Led by sHAO Jieni they overcame Sweden in a thrilling match.
In the opening duel, Cristina KALLBERG recovered from being down 0-2 to level the match against SHAO. In the fourth game, she had a 10-6 lead, but SHAO fought back, and Cristina eventually closed it out at 14-12. In the decisive game, KALLBERG created a lead, but in quick exchanges of rallies in the finishing stages, SHAO won by a narrow margin. The duel lasted almost an hour.
Linda BERGSTROM challenged YU Fu but failed to score. The first two games concluded 11-9 before YU prevailed in straight games. Filippa BERGAND overcame Matilda PINTO to keep Sweden in the game.
BERGSTROM put SHAO under severe pressure and ignited the stands with brilliant responses to SHAO's attacks, but Jeni remained unbeaten in Sweden.
Jennie SHAO commented: “I knew it would be very difficult. I wanted to win everything I could. The Swedish team is very strong, so the match was very close, and they play very well, so I know I needed to be very strong. I am used to playing against them as we often play against each other, so it's like 50/50, and I am so happy winning both matches.”
Portugal had a more consistent game tonight.
“Maybe it looked like some easy misses for the Swedish team, but it's not because it was a really close game. In the end, it was sometimes just a two-point difference, and I was very focused. And I made better decisions than my adversary.”
Tomorrow, Portugal will meet Germany.
“It is getting harder and harder. We will fight like we always do and try to achieve the best result.”
Germany - Italy 3-0
Germany's women's team has reached the semi-finals for the 18th time. Ying HAN, Nina MITTELHAM, and Xiaona SHAN defeated Italy 3-0 thanks to another confident performance. The defending champions, seeded number one, have only dropped three games throughout the tournament so far.
After her rest period due to minor muscular issues, it was Ying HAN who opened the match against Italy. Germany's number one in the European rankings defeated the 39-year-old seven-time European Championships medalist Nikoleta STEFANOVA in less than 20 minutes.
"I played well, better than I expected, because in my last singles match on Monday, it was a completely different style of play," said Ying Han contentedly after her three-day tournament break.
Following that, Nina extended the lead to 2-0 without dropping a game against Giorgia PICCOLIN, a quarter-finalist from the European Championships in Munich. Xiaona SHAN then sealed the victory against Gaia MONFARDINI.
"Our team has played well so far. We didn't have very tough matches, but that's not our problem," commented women's national team coach Tamara BOROS. "Regardless of whether we face Sweden or Portugal in the semi-finals, both would be a 50:50 match for us."
Romania – Spain 3-2
Reigning champions, Romania justified their status and in a thrilling five-match battle, they beat Spain. In the penultimate stage, they will meet France.
Bernadette SZOCS overcame Maria BERZOSA, but for Elizabeta SAMARA, it was the opposite scenario. SAMARA took an early lead and forced Maria XIAO to go the full distance, but in the close finish, the Spanish player prevailed.
Sofia-Xuan ZHANG widened the gap further with a victory over Andreea DRAGOMAN. Andreea took the third game, but Sofia managed to regain control in the fourth.
On her second appearance at the table, SZOCS did not relax her grip for a second. Maria XIAO could not find the game to stop her, so Bernadette was forced into the decisive match.
“I am proud of my team, and I am very satisfied with my performance. I am finally satisfied with my game. I played recently against Maria XIAO in Rio, and it was a close game. Against her, you have to keep focused and stay in the game, no matter how many balls she puts on the table – and she puts them a lot. I was cautious thanks to our last encounter, and it paid off with a straight games win,” said SZOCS.
In the last duel, SAMARA prevailed against BERZOSA.
“I lost to Maria XIAO in the opening match 9-11 in the decisive game, so there is no need to explain how close it was. We always play close matches. One or two points decide the whole duel. I was in the lead 2-1, and it was 6-5 when Maria changed the course of the match. In the fifth match against BERZOSA, I held to my game; she came close in the second game, but I maintained control,” explained SAMARA.
Slovakia – France 1-3
France secured a place on the medal podium to level the result from Cluj. Now they will play against the same adversary they met two years ago – Romania. On their way to the semis, France overcame Slovakia, the team that beat them at the World Championships.
In the opening match, after five games and 45 minutes of a fierce battle against Barbora BALAZOVA, Prithika PAVADE suffered her first defeat at the Championships. YUAN Jia Nan leveled the match after a straight games victory over Ema LOBOSOVA.
Audrey ZARIF also won and secured another point in the duel against Tatiana KUKULKOVA. BALAZOVA put the pressure on YUAN Jia Nan but could not prevail.
“Two years ago we lost against Romania, and we are ready for a new clash with them to move further up on the medal podium,” said Audrey ZARIF. “We wanted revenge for our defeat against Slovakia at the World Championships. Even though I lost my match, I had full confidence that they can bring the points, and that we will win.”
Speaking of the duel against Slovakia, ZARIF said: “BALAZOVA played superbly today. She was 0-2 down against PAVADE, but she did not give up. We were down 0-1, but we stayed confident. In my match against KUKULKOVA, I stayed calm, and overall we performed at the top level.”
PAVADE: “It was a pity that I lost my match here. I played very well, being 2-0 up. However, I lost my rhythm; she raised her game. Maybe I could have won the fourth game; it was 5-2 for me, and I had a few points to win the match. In the decisive match, I made a few easy mistakes... at the end, it is important that the team won.”