(by Steve Hopkins)
When the first ITTF event of the year began this week in Dusseldorf, the top two seeds were Robert Gardos (World No. 26) and Benedikt Duda (World No. 43). Both of the top seeds breezed through the early rounds and into the Semifinals. Gardos did so while hardly dropping a game (winning 4-0, 4-0, and 4-1). Duda struggled more, but still won his matches at 4-2, 4-1, and 4-3 (that last match was a comeback win over Cedric Meissner).
Gardos topped Samuel Walker with an easy 4-1 win to advance to the Final. The other Semifinal was a surprise as Brian Afanador, Puerto Rico’s World No. 85, was given the nod to advance. Apparently Duda was injured in his Quarterfinal win – so the match with Afanador was a Walk-Over. That said, reaching the Final was a solid result for Afanador (and Puerto Rico) logging wins over France’s Florian Bourrassaud 4-0, Egypts Mahmoud Helmy 4-1, and Joao Monteiro 4-3.
The Final was close early, but Gardos won each of the first three games 11-9, 11-8, 11-7 before Afanador got on the board by winning a single game. Gardos hung on for the 4-1 win.
Barbora Balazova surprised in the Women’s event, taking the title after a series of upsets that began with wins over Natali Bajor 4-3, then Chantal Mantz 4-1 and finally over Xiaona Shan in the Final 4-3. The French Team of Lebrun/Dorr won Men’s Doubles. Hana Arapovic and Polina Trifonova won Women’s Doubles. And Gardos and Mischek teamed up to win Mixed Doubles.
A second Dussedldorf Feeder Event kicks off on Monday. It will finish right away with the qualifying rounds finishing Monday evening and the main draw finishing before the weekend.
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