(by Steve Hopkins/Photo by ITTF)
In a week of cancellations and postponements unlike anything we’ve seen in the US since 9-11 and haven’t seen worldwide since perhaps WWII, there were two ITTF tour events planned.
On March 13, the ITTF issued the following announcement:
Following the declaration by the World Health Organization of COVID-19 as a pandemic and the increased number of international travel restrictions, the ITTF has decided to suspend all activities provisionally, with the health and safety of athletes, coaches, officials and fans as the top priority. The suspension comes into effect from Monday 16th March 2020 and relates to all ITTF sanctioned events, High Performance and Development activities and ITTF Foundation activities that had been due to start between the above date and the end of April 2020. The ITTF Executive Committee will hold an emergency meeting on Monday 16th March to discuss the situation further and an announcement will be made next week regarding the ITTF World Tour Hong Kong and China Opens. The ITTF has also recommended to all Continental Associations to follow the ITTF’s decision. For any queries related to COVID-19 and how it affects ITTF activities, please contact email@example.com.
In Gliwice, Poland, the Polish Open had proceeded through the group stages when they received word from the ITTF of the impending suspension of activities. The 2020 Challenge Polish Open was suspended immediately – before the knock-out rounds began.
In Oman, the same message was received, but event organizers and participants elected to proceed. Unlike much of Europe and Asia where the number of cases has skyrocketed, Oman is dealing with relatively small numbers of cases. The 2020 ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open proceeded as scheduled – but with the ITTF suspending all activities for the remainder of March, this will be the last ITTF event to report this month.
The top seeds in Muscat, Oman were Marcos Feitas and Jonathan Groth. Freitas sailed easily through the early rounds logging three 4-0 wins on his way to the Semifinal. Freitas would face India’s Harmeet Desai who upset the tournament’s third seed, Omar Assar, after being down at points in the match by both 0-2 and 2-3. Groth fell early and the beneficiary was Kirill Skachkov of Russia who managed to win three straight 4-3 victories on his way to the Semifinals. Waiting for Kirill was Sharath Kamal Achanta, the tournament’s fourth seed.
Both Semifinal matches were tight. Both went to the higher seed. Freitas needed to win the final three games to advance after falling down 1-3. Fretas over Desai 4-3 (-5, 9, -6, -6, 8, 11, 5). Kamal lost the first also fell behind early, losing the first two games 11-13, 11-13. However, he turned the tables and won the next three games by the slimmest of margins – winning 13-11, 11-9, and 13-11 to take the lead. The players traded wins in the final two games, giving Kamal the 4-3 win.
In the Final, Freitas jumped out to an early lead with an 11-6 win. However, Kamal pulled out three wins in a row and then held on for the 4-2 win. Kamal over Freitas 4-2 (-6, 8, 20, 9, -3, 15). Sharath Kamal Achanta has won the Oman Open.