WTC23 - More overtimes, upsets and tight battles on Day 2
Day 2 concluded the group stages, only 16 contestants can continue to dream about sitting on the throne.
The men’s teams took the field in the first session of Thursday to face off in the group phase. In Group A-H, finishing at the top was worth a bye in the Round of 32, and it raised the level of excitement and intensity right off the bat.
In Group A, Rodolphe Beaka&Stephane Danho from Cote d’Ivoire took Robert Kertesz and Milan Zsibok to three sets but fell short in the end, and it meant that the Canadians moved on behind the three-time world champion Serbians, Nikola Mitro and Bogdan Marojevic. The Serbs allowed only 13 points in two games.
Their biggest rivals, the Hungarian team of Csaba Banyik&Balazs Katz also dominated against Eswatini and China and conceded just 11 points, behind them the Africans advanced by beating China.
The Romanian (Apor Gyorgydeak&Arnold Szilagyi), the American (Dennis Correia&Luka Pilic), the Brazilian (Rodrigo Bento Medeiros&Matheus Ferraz), the Polish (Adrian Duszak&Marek Pokwap) and the Colombian (Joshua Bello&Jose Ricardo Oviedo Amortegui) unit also recorded immaculate group stages to earn the bye for the next round, while the Slovaks (Marian Badar&Branislav Rodman) pulled off a comeback win versus the Ukrainians (Oleh Usychenko&Dmytro Shevchuk) in Group G to get themselves a free afternoon.
The biggest surprise occurred in Group L, where the Thais (Phakpong Dejaroen&Boonkoom Tipwong) marched through the field. No, this did not shock anybody, but the fact that the Austrians (Daniel Neuhold&Benedikt Hofmann-Wellenhof) edged out the African Beach Games champ Tunisians (Yassine&Youssef Sahli) in a 12:11, 12:11 thriller was something unexpected.
And their journey will continue on Friday as they kept their momentum against Italy (Arovetto Lombardi&Pasquale Errico) in the round of 32 (12:9, 12:10), so they will face the title holders, the Serbian duo. Team Ukraine paid a huge price for letting the group win slip out of their hands: they were drawn together with the Thais and the home tandem proved why many consider them potential medallists, eliminating the “guests” in straight sets.
Zaid Eidan from Kuwait got his revenge over Jonathan Coquelle: on Wednesday, the Belgian upset the seeded Eidan in the men’s singles, but one day later, Eidan emerged victorious alongside Abdulwahad Alqattan against Coquelle and Nicholas Hachez in three sets. In the top 16, they will need their best shape to shock the 2nd-seeded Hungarians.
Finally, the mixed competition kicked off on Thursday afternoon with high expectations because of the loaded and open field, and it lived up to them early on.
Group H brought amazing battles, and two of them involved the Romanian twosome of Kinga Barabasi&Arnold Szilagyi. First they went to three sets against Colombians Laura Catalina Gomez Bulla&Nilson Fernando Castaneda Vargas, and closed them out after winning the third period 12:10. Then they took part in another marathon with Poland’s bests (Alicja Bartnicka&Marek Pokwap), however, the result became different, meaning that the Polish team won the group with Romania coming second, but both of them advanced to the Round of 16.
In Group A, another spot in the top 16 was decided with a third set, as Slovakians Karina Zustakova&Branislav Rodman defeated Asnidah Zamri&Muhammad Eizlan Rakhil Bin Abd Rahman from Malaysia in ‘overtime’, finishing second behind Vania Moraes da Cruz&Leonardo Lindoso de Almeida in Group A. The Brazilians dominated in this phase, and the other candidates like the Hungarians (Krisztian Acs&Csaba Banyik), the French team (Amelie Julian&Hugo Rabeux), the Thais (Suphawadi Wongkhamchan&Phakpong Dejaroen) and the Serbians (Maja Umicevic&Nikola Mitro) also showed that they are ready to fight for the gold medal, however, the latter duo was forced to a third set by Indians Quimcy Dsouza and Anas Beg.
The home team enjoyed tremendous support from their fans during their matches, and they claimed it means a lot to them:
“We expected a lot of people, but it was still surprising and exceeded our expectations. It does not put pressure on us though, actually, it is the opposite, and the louder the crowd gets, the more power we get.” - said Wongkhamchan and Dejaroen.
Three-time world champion Nikola Mitro is still adjusting to the special environment, but after all, he was able to take the W in every match he was involved in on Thursday:
“This World Championship is much different than the previous ones. We play outside the first three days, and in Serbia, we practice indoors. It is a new experience for the whole team, and we need a lot of time to prepare for the matches in this environment. We are not fully comfortable yet, but I am happy with our five wins today. Tomorrow is a big day for us, we will go match by match, and I think we will be fine.”
Since we are through all the group phases, the real fight is just about to begin. It is “win or go home” from Friday, and the stakes are getting higher and higher from round to round. We will start with the Round of 16 in every category, and by the end of the day, we will have only four contenders remaining in each of them.