WTC23 - Surprises, comebacks and thrillers highlighted the opening day
Over 140 matches, upsets, marathons, bicycle kicks, great atmosphere - just a few words to describe the opening day of the World Teqball Championships 2023.
The first day began with the men’s singles competition on the morning of Wednesday and it was not short of excitement, thrillers and surprises.
We did not have to wait too much for the first three-setter as SokPhirom Riem from Cambodia and Aitegin Maksatbek from Kyrgyzstan went toe-to-toe in the opening round of Group H, with the former completing an amazing comeback and avoiding a matchpoint (10:12, 12:11, 12:6). Riem then played another marathon which he lost in the overtime of the third set to Abdallha Hathem Hameed Al Rubaie and it cost him the chance to move on.
Vinit Jain (India) and Siphosethu Sikhondze (Eswatini) followed suit in Group J (12:10, 11:12, 12:6), and Jain earned a spot in the best 32 with this win. We also witnessed the closest possible two-setter, too, as Jon Nielsen (Germany) defeated Jose Pablo Gonzalez Hidalgo (Guatemala) 12:11, 12:11 in Group B, and later it turned out that this match decided who was going to advance to the next round.
The master of the long matches, though, was Oleh Usychenko from Ukraine, whose appearances lasted for three sets each and he managed to earn four points out of them to finish at the top of Group A.
The home player, Uthen Kukheaw also played a quite tight match against Kirill Zemskov (12:10, 12:9) to start Group F and then secured a spot in the Round of 32 with a second win over Adrien Uka from Kosovo. There, he dominated Al Rubaie and marched into the top 16, and after his last match, he had this to say:
“I’m very excited and enjoying playing in the singles. It is amazing that FITEQ brought the World Championships to Thailand so we can have our fans supporting us. I hope it will do great for Thai Teqball and have young children engage and start playing this sport, I would love to see the new generation grow up and play in full stadiums here.”
Brazilian Lucas Bernardes’ tournament came to an early end as he could not show up for his first match versus Muhammad Azri Abdul Harith, then lost a nerve-wracking contest in three sets to Colombian Nilson Fernando Castaneda Vargas, thus getting eliminated after just two rounds.
In the Round of 32, the top 8 players joined the competition as they enjoyed a bye for the group stages. Five of them (title holder Apor Gyorgydeak, Adam Blazsovics, Adrian Duszak, Bogdan Marojevic and Brian Mengel Thomsen) completed the task in straight sets, while Yassine Sahli and Hugo Rabeux each dropped one to Markus Drange Loka and Farid Grine, respectively. The biggest shock was made by Belgian Jonathan Cocquelle, who eliminated Zaid Eidan from Kuwait and punched his ticket to the top 16.
The women took the stage later in the afternoon with the singles group and Round of 32 matches, then the doubles group matches.
In the singles, the first clashes indicated that it was going to be a tight battle as we saw many matches going to deciding sets. There was one among them that screamed for the ‘epic’ label: in Group H, Moldovan Viorica Tonu and Indian Quimcy Dsouza ended up playing almost four sets of time as the last one was won by the former with a score of 19:17! On top of that, it was the tiebreaker between them, so Tonu advanced from the group in 2nd place behind Thai Jutatip Kuntatong, who made it look easy against both of her opponents and earned a bye for the next round.
Defending champion Carolyn Greco also made no mistake in Group A, just like European Champion Kinga Barabasi (Romania), silver medallist Amelie Julian (France), bronze medallist Nanna Lind Kristensen (Denmark), former doubles world champs Rafaella Fontes (Brazil) and Zsanett Janicsek (Hungary), and also Silvia Ferrer Garcia (Spain). As winners of Group A-H, they did not have to take part in the Round of 32 thanks to the seeding.
The final part of the day brought the first doubles matches of the World Championships as the women's teams faced each other in the group phase. Some of the teqers had competed in the singles just hours (or even minutes) before, so regeneration was key for them.
Anastasija Lemajic was one of them and she opened this event with a much-needed win after getting eliminated in singles. She and Maja Umicevic held off Elisa Lanche and Santana Sahraoui in two very exciting sets (12:10, 12:11), then finished second behind the Czechs (Iva Burvalova&Gabriela Zachova), who won all of their contest in three sets.
Group D promised a great feature between the Thais (Jutatip Kuntatong&Suphawadi Wongkhamchan) and the Danish team (Nanna Lind Kristensen&Mira Faeno Dahlmann), but the home team put up a strong performance in front of their enthusiastic fans, and the “visitors” were not able to handle their acrobatic bicycle smashes. They still advanced though, thanks to their victory against Canada so they will be there in the Round of 16.
Kristensen had a busy and successful Wednesday evening and the young phenom enjoyed it pretty much:
“For me, to rest means playing. I eat and drink a lot before matches just like my parents told me. Our strategy against the Thai team was to do short balls and make some smashes to put pressure on them, but we forgot about it during the game and they were able to put a lot of pressure on us. I’ve never experienced this kind of atmosphere before, this was something really special. It means a lot to me to win, but the most important thing is to be here, be a part of this community and feel the good vibes. You cannot explain it, you have to be here to feel it!”
Besides the Thais, the Brazilians (Vania Moraes da Cruz&Ester Viana Mendes), the Americans (Carolyn Greco&Kimberly Baker) and the Hungarians (Petra Pechy&Nora Vicsek) also showcased their power with each team conceding less than 12 points in their two matches during the group phase.
The German duo of Nelly Wilke&Daytona Hansen edged out the Lebanese twosome of Kamar Dandal&Maria Chedid to win Group E, and the quartets of 4 teams (F, G and H) all presented numerous three-setters with the Czechs, the Spaniards (Silvia Ferrer Garcia&Anna Gomez I Vila) and the Polish tandem (Alicja Barnicka&Zaneta Cygora) claiming the top spots in their respective groups.
We will follow up this great opening day with the final two categories, the men’s and the mixed doubles on Thursday. The men’s doubles rules and schedule are similar to the women’s singles: the 45 teams were drawn into 3 groups of 3 (A-C) and 9 groups of 4 (D-L) with the top 2 from each advancing. The winners of Groups A-H will get a bye and proceed to the Round of 16, thus skipping the Round of 32, which will be held right after the first break.
The rest of the day will belong to the mixed doubles, where the 38 units were drawn into 6 groups of 5 (A-F) and 2 groups of 4 (G-H) with the top 2 from each advancing to the Round of 16.
The program starts at 9 AM, and the matchups of Table 1 and 2 will be streamed on YouTube on TeqTV channel, catch the action live there!