(by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor)
Cédric and Kanak so close but can’t prevail in opening exchanges
Success was the outcome for the leading names called to action in the opening matches in the first stage of proceedings in the Liebherr 2017 Men’s World Cup in Liège, Belgium on the afternoon of Friday 20th October.
However, for two notables, there were nervous moments; both Korea’s Lee Sangsu and Egypt’s Omar Assar emerged victorious but only just, they kept their supporters on the very edges of their seats.
Lee Sangsu, the no.9 seed and bronze medallist earlier in the year at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships, needed the full seven games to eventually overcome 18 year old Kanak Jha from the United States, the no.19 seed (9-11, 13-11, 8-11, 11-6, 9-11, 11-1, 11-4).
“My feeling was not too good when the match started and I was a bit nervous. After the sixth game, I got my rhythm back and this made me feel the game again. I think after this match I need to just focus on winning point by point.” Lee Sangsu
“After winning the fifth game, I started feeling the pressure going into the sixth game, particularly when I started serving half long. It was hard for me to maintain my short serves. I think what I learned from this match is that I should be able to receive and serve better against top players like Lee Sangsu. This was my first match in the tournament, I still have another match and I must stay focused.” Kanak Jha
Exacting times for Lee Sangsu; it was the very same for Omar Assar, the no.11 seed; he had to recover from a two games to nil and three games to one deficit to beat the host nation’s Cédric Nuytinck (9-11, 10-12, 11-8, 9-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-8).
“Omar started playing a bit better in the fifth game and he was able to receive my service well. I made some costly mistakes. It is always the end if you lose vital points against top 50 players like Omar. It was painful that I lost the match because I was in good form having trained very well for the tournament. I knew I could win the match but it was my fault that I could not maintain my form throughout the encounter. The next match against Alexander Shibaev promises to be tough like this because he is also a good player. I hope I can start well against him just like I started against Omar.” Cédric Nuytinck
A full distance encounter for Lee Sangsu, for Marcos Freitas, the no.10 seed who had received the “wild card” nomination, life was less demanding. He accounted for Australia’s David Powell, the Oceania Cup winner competing in the event for the second consecutive year, in four straight games (11-7, 11-3, 11-2, 11-9).
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