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Slovenia Open Challenge Series Review: Pota, Zhang, Afanador

Slovenia Open Challenge Series Review: Pota, Zhang, Afanador

(by Steve Hopkins)

The Seamaster 2019 ITTF Challenge Series Slovenia Open concluded on Sunday.  The group qualifiers ended on Thursday and the knock out stages began on Friday.  As a part of the Challenge Series, the top players were not at the most elite level, but with the top seeds in the low 30s of the World Rankings, this was still a competitive event, and an opportunity for some mid-level players and rising stars to shine.

The men’s event went to the second seed, Wei Shihao from Croatia.  He defeated Poland’s Jakub Dyjas 4-2.  The women’s event went to Hungarian Georgina Pota in a 4-3 thriller over Ukraine’s Margaryta Pesotska.  Pota has been a frequent visitor to U.S. event and has many fans here.  Pesotska, who ended Lily Zhang’s run in the Quarterfinals, started strong with wins in the firth, third, and fifth games.  But Pota won the sixth game 11-9 to tie up the score, and then held on for a 15-13 win in the seventh and decisive game.

Earlier in the week, the American men, Ye Tian, Kai Zhang, and Nicholas Tio failed to emerge from the qualifiers.  Puerto Rico’s Daniel Gonzalez advanced to the main draw, but fell in the opening round.  Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador, had the best finish among the North American men.  Afanador was seeded into the draw and won his first match before falling in the Round of 32. 

On the Women’s side, USA’s Lily Zhang and Jennifer Wu both won their first knock-out stage matches.  Zhang went on to defeat Hungary’s Nagyvaradi 4-1 in the Round of 32 as well.  Wu fell to Japan’s Yubin Shin in her Round of 32 match.  Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz dominated both of her matches to advance to the Round of 16.  This set up a show-down between American citizens, with Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz the favorite over Lily Zhang.  Zhang (World No. 81) won that match on Saturday morning, taking out the World’s No. 31 player by a score of 4-2.  Lily Zhang then lost a tight match in the quarterfinals to Margaryta Pesotska (World No. 48). 

Some additional notes on the U-21 events:  USA’s Nicholas Tio won his first match over Ivor Ban before losing in the Round of 32 to the event’s top seed, Andreas Levenko.  USA’s Ye Tian shared the same result, winning his first match over Tilen Cvetko 3-0 before falling to Vladimir Sidorenko 0-3 in the Round of 32.

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