WTC23 - Many dreams have been broken, few are still alive
Any tournament’s most exciting and awaited part is the knockout phase, where heroic clashes, epic battles, unexpected turns of events and unforgettable moments happen. This phase started on Friday at the World Teqball Championships 2023, and was not short of bangers drama.
The 3rd day started with the men’s Round of 16, where defending champion Apor Gyorgydeak (Romania) faced Uthen Kukheaw from Thailand and it was projected to be a tight outing. The home player scored the first two points, but Gyorgydeak quickly found his game, turned the heat up, and dominated afterward. Kukheaw was not able to keep up the pace with the title holder, who seemed unstoppable and earned a quite lopsided victory to move on to the next round.
Mame Cheikh Fam from Senegal achieved a new career high by defeating Yassine Sahli and making it to the top 8, just like Belgian Jonathan Coquelle, while Danish Brian Mengel Thomsen repeated his feat from last year by advancing to the quarterfinals. Then he set a new record for himself by defeating Fam to reach his first-ever international semifinal, where he will play against Gyorgydeak, who gave zero chance Coquelle in the Round of 8. On the lower bracket, Frenchman Hugo Rabeux ended Adam Blazsovics’s amazing streak of winning a medal at every WCh, and he will take on Adrian Duszak from Poland, who made the semifinal in singles for the 4th consecutive time.
In the women’s singles R16, Jutatip Kuntatong played a relatively close match against Canadian Sarah Rees, but moved on to the QFs, much to the delight of the supporters. The first surprise came in this category as European Championship bronze medallist Nanna Lind Kristensen was eliminated at the hands of Lebanese Kamar Dandal.
The rest of the contenders made no mistake, defending champion Carolyn Greco (USA), EG champ Kinga Barabasi (Romania), EG silver medallist Amelie Julian (France), last year’s bronze winner Rafaella Fontes (Brazil) and Zsanett Janicsek (Hungary) all marched into the quarterfinals, Julian however dropped one set to Viorica Tonu (Moldova). Silvia Ferrer Garcia from Spain and Iryna Dubytska from Ukraine played a memorable bout that ended with the Spaniard proceeding, and it was only one point (!) altogether that separated the two teqers.
Kutatong then clashed with Janicsek, and despite losing the first set she came back with the support of a huge crowd. Her next matchup will be against Greco in the semis, as last year’s winner won in 2 sets against Dandal. The other semifinal will feature Barabasi who eliminated Julian, and Fontes, who bested Ferrer Garcia in straight sets.
In the men’s doubles Round of 16, Colombians Joshua Bello&Jose Ricardo Oviedo Amortegui put Thais Phakpong Dejaroen&Boonkoom Tipwong to the test and snatched the opening set, but the fan favorites managed to complete the comeback. The same happened to their opponents, Gyorgydeak&Arnold Szilagyi, who lost the first period to Thomsen&Magnus Aagaard Madsen, but shook it off and moved on.
Jean Thierry Belus&Lionel Beyer stunned Adrian Duszak&Marek Pokwap in a nailbiter: first, the French unit saved a matchpoint in the second set, then edged out the Polish team in overtime in the third! In the Round of 8, they faced Csaba Banyik&Balazs Katz and shocked them, too in the first set by winning it, but the hole was not deep enough for the Hungarians as they climbed out of it and fought back to make the semifinals. According to Katz, they know how to handle adversity:
“Honestly, we were preparing for the Polish team, we analyzed their game more. The French team surprised them and us, as well, Beyer was playing amazing today and when he is feeling it, his serves are almost unreceivable. Thankfully we won the match despite not playing so well, we are capable of a much higher level. We just have to forget it and move forward. We have had our ups and downs at the European Championships and we managed to overcome those, just like here today. This is why we make a good team with Csabi: we get along outside of the table, too, we trust and support each other and have each other’s backs.”
They have to bring their A-game on Sunday, because in the semifinal, they will duel with the Thais, who won against Romania in three sets, while on the other side, defending champs Nikola Mitro&Bogdan Marojevic will try to make their 5th final in a row versus the ‘Blonde Brothers’, Brazilians Rodrigo Bento Medeiros&Matheus Ferraz - which is going to be the rematch of last year’s semifinal.
In the women’s doubles, Kutantong&Suphawadi Wongkhamchan did not waste too much time against Anastasija Lemajic&Maja Umicevic in the R16, and it also applied to Petra Pechy&Nora Vicsek against Wang Sha Sha&Yazhen Cui, Greco&Kimberly Baker versus Andrea Sommer&Nina Steinbauer and Vania Moraes da Cruz&Ester Viana Mendes vs. Iryna Dubytska&Anastasiia Terekh.
Kristensen’s and Mira Faeno Dahlmann’s duel with Iva Burvalova&Gabriela Zachova is going to be remembered for a long time as all three sets were decided by a maximum of two points, eventually, the Danes could celebrate their hard-fought victory, but then fell short to Viana Mendes&Moraes da Cruz. The Brazilians will play against Pechy&Vicsek from Hungary on Sunday, and the other semifinal will be decided between Greco&Baker and Kuntatong&Wongkhamchan.
Greco had a busy day, and the weekend will not ease up her schedule:
“I will eat a healthy meal and drink a lot of water, stretch and might go on the bike in the morning, try to tune my mind for the game tomorrow. I am playing in Thailand against the Thais in both singles and doubles in front of their crowd, so for me, it is going to be more of a mental battle. I will try to practice my zen and my calm to keep my head clean and stay focused during the games. I love an arena, so moving inside is not going to be a challenge, but rather a gift. I am looking forward to playing in front of a lot of fans on a beautiful stage in a new country, sometimes I have to pinch myself that this is what I get to do, I feel so lucky and blessed!”
In the mixed doubles, all of the favorites swept their opponents in the R16, and even though the quarterfinals also did not bring three-setters, there were some signs indicating that nobody is unbeatable. At the end of the day, Alicja Bartnicka&Marek Pokwap (Poland) closed out Maja Umicevic&Nikola Mitro, Wongkhamchan&Dejaroen crashed the French team’s (Amelie Juian&Hugo Rabeux) hopes, Brazil (Vania Moraes da Cruz&Leonardo Lindoso de Almeida) won another battle against USA (Margaret Osmundson&Luka Pilic), and the Hungarians (Krisztina Acs&Csaba Banyik) defeated the Czechs (Gabriela Zachova&Lukas Flaks).
On Saturday, the World Teqball Championships will move to the Bangkok Arena, where the queen and the king of the singles will be crowned, but we will start with the semifinals in these categories. As Ms Greco mentioned, she is going up against Jutatip Kuntatong, and in the second semifinal, Kinga Barabasi will play versus Rafaella Fontes, both of them looking for their first WCh final.
The other singles reigning champ, Apor Gyorgydeak also kept his chance to go back-to-back, but first, he has to defeat Brian Mengel Thomsen in the semis. Then Hugo Rabeux will try to advance to the final for the first time in his career, but Adrian Duszak definitely has other ideas.
Between the two finals, FITEQ Ambassador and football legend Ronaldinho is going to play a gala match against local influencers and Teqball players, for example, Jirati Chanliang. You do not want to miss this!