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Slovenia Open Challenge Series Review: Pota, Zhang, Afanador

Serbia Open Challenge Series: Afanador, Drinkhall Excel

(by Steve Hopkins/Photo courtesy of ITTF)

With a draw including World No. 66 Stefan Fegerl as the top seed, the Seamaster 2019 ITTF Challenge, Serbia Open was not on par with last week’s World Championships, or even with a major tour event.  However, it did include a solid core of up and coming players and a number of familiar names from Austria, Croatia, England, and Puerto Rico.

Top seed, Stefan Fegerl advanced to the Round of 16, but was stopped by England’s Paul Drinkhall.  Drinkhall overcame a 2-3 deficit to win the final two games for the victory.  Second seeded Tomislav Pucar met the same fate, advancing easily to the Round of 16 but then losing 4-1 to Russia’s Lev Katsman.  Third seeded Marcelo Aguirre fell victim to the Round of 16 curse as well, losing to Croatia’s Frane Kojic 4-2.  And fourth seeded Florent Lambiet of Belgium fell a round earlier, losing to Adam Szudi of Hungary in the Round of 32.

By the time the Semifinals were held, all of the top seeds were eliminated.  England’s Paul Drinkhall (12th seed) emerged from the top of the draw to face France’s Andrea Landrieu (21st seed).  And Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador (19th seed) surprised the field to emerge in the bottom half of the draw to face France’s Abdel-Kader Salifou (unseeded).  Drinkhall won his match 4-3 to advance, and Salifou won his match 4-2.  Drinkhall put the finishing touches on this Challenge Series event with a 4-2 win in the final.

In the U21 event Yi Tian fought his way to the elimination round representing the USA before losing to France’s BGastien Rembert 3-1.  Canada’s Jeremy Hazin advanced to the Round of 16 before falling to England’s Tom Jarvis.  The U21 concluded with an all French final with Leo De Nodrest defeating Bastien Rembert 3-0.

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