(by Steve Hopkins, photo ITTF/Remy Gros)
After the WTT Events concluded in Doha Saturday, there was a quick overnight shift. The black flooring, tall black backdrops, modern neon lighting, projected video messaging, and the signature black-topped tables with their neon blue edge and center lines were all removed. By Sunday morning, the venue’s facelift allowed for the World Singles Qualification Tournament to start on classic tables placed on the more standard red flooring and with the event sponsors printed on the rear barriers.
The World Singles Qualification Tournament was set up to use the same protective bubble at the facilities in Doha – also coordinating with the WTT events from the previous two weeks to limit COVID exposure for athletes and staff alike. The events would result in five Olympic spots for women and four Olympic spots for men.
On the women’s side, Britt Eerland of the Netherlands won the opening Knock Out event (KO1) by defeating Galia Dvorak 4-0. KO2 was won by Sweden’s Linda Bergstrom, who lost only three games in her four wins. KO3 was the only Knock Out event where the top two seeds reached the Final – but it was second-seeded Polina Mikhailova of Russia who topped Thailand’s Sawettabut. The final event was called the Second Stage and it was a an event that matched the four second-place finishers from the Knock Out events. In that battle of Finalists, it was Suthasini Sawettabut of Thailand who won and took that final Olympic slot.
Czech Butterfly player Lubomir Jancarik surprised the field by topping four higher ranked players to win KO1 in the Men’s Event. It was Bence Majors of Hungary over Belgium’s Lambiet in KO2. And Slovakia’s Wang Yang led the way in KO3. The Second Stage event on the Men’s side placed 16 players who did not win in the 3 Knock Out events. England’s Liam Pitchford and Russia’s Kirill Skachkov battled to through to the Finals, and it was Skachkov who took the final Olympic slot with a 4-1 win.
The facility in Doha has again shifted gears. Immediately after finishing the Olympic Singles Qualification Events on the 17th, they cleaned up over night and changed the branding and restarted on the morning of the 18th with the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament. Featuring players from India, Singapore, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and the other smaller countries of Asia, this weekend should be packed with even more action from Doha.
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