(by Steve Hopkins)
Montreax, Switzerland was host to the 2019 CCB Europe Top 16 Cup. This annual invitational brings the top 16 men and women in Europe together for a two-day tournament. Timo Boll, Mattias Falck, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, and Liam Pitchford were the top four seeds for the men, but only two escaped their opening match. Top seeded Timo Boll advanced easily to the semifinal with a 4-0 win over Tiago Apolonia and a 4-1 win over Kristian Karlsson. However, Boll fell to Dimitrij Ovtcharov in the semifinal. Ovtcharov had beaten Kou Lei and Jonathan Groth in his earlier matches.
Three of the four opening matches in the bottom half of the draw were upsets. Falck, Pitchford, and Freitas all fell to underdogs. The only higher seed to hold his position was Vladimir Samsonov, and he eventually emerged to reach the final (with wins over Ionescu, Gionis, and Habesohn).
The final was a rollercoaster. Samsonov dominated the first game, but then lost the next two, including an 11-3 trouncing. But then the tide turned again and Samsonov took games 3 and 4 (and took a 3-2 lead in the match). But, in the end, it was Ovtcharov who closed out the match by winning the final two games. The last game of this epic battle was fittingly close – a 12-10 Ovtcharov win to claim the title.
The women’s side began with the top seeds pushing forward. Polcanova and Szocs (seeds 1 and 2) each reached the semifinals with relative ease. But the real story may have been the top seeds’ surprise opponents. Natalia Partyka of Poland entered the tournament as the 15th seed (out of 16) but defeated the tournament’s fourth seed and seventh seed on her way to the semifinals. Partyka’s run ended in the semifinal against Bernadette Szocs in a tight 4-3 match.
The other semifinalist was the eventual winner. Petrissa Solja entered as the fifth seed. Her eventual path to the championship included beating the fourth seeded Samara, then the top seeded Polcanova, and then in the finals, she sealed her victory with a 4-3 win over second seeded Bernadette Szocs. An amazing run and an unexpected result.
Euro 16 champions are two of Germany’s best: a recovered Dimitrij Ovtcharov and first-time Euro Champion Petrissa Solja.
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