The men’s singles race at the WTT Contender Budapest took an unexpected turn at the quarter-final hurdle as the two highest-seeded players both suffered defeats.
Top seed Liam Pitchford succumbed to a surprise 8-11, 14-16, 3-11 defeat at the hands of Germany’s Kilian Ort while Nigeria’s Quadri Aruna, seeded second, fell short against Sweden’s Truls Moregard 9-11, 6-11, 11-2, 11-3, 2-11.
Both high-flying Ort and Moregard had unfinished business to take care of as they needed another win to make the finals.
Unseeded qualifier Ort was the first to book his ticket to the final following an outstanding 5-11, 7-11, 12-10, 9-11, 11-7, 11-9, 15-13 comeback victory over Czech Republic’s Tomas Polansky.
“I am very happy with my victory, and I think I was in my best shape. The key to success was the third game I managed to steal; I controlled the match after that. I think he is better than me in general, but I fought hard and did everything I could to reach the final,” said Ort
.Moregard, on the other hand, negotiated a different challenge, holding his nerve in the face of Dang Qiu’s late charge to beat the German number seven seed 11-8, 10-12, 11-9, 11-6, 4-11, 10-12, 11-7.
“I think I played very well, and I wanted this success more. He was a very strong opponent, but I was better on the day. I need some rest now, so I’m going to take a quick bath and go to sleep. It was 50-50, but in the end, it’s me who is celebrating the victory,” said Moregard.
Top seed to meet qualifier for the bragging rights
Monaco’s Yang Xiaoxin is just one win away from living up to expectations as the top-seeded entry in the women’s singles draw produced another strong outing on Thursday. Starting the day with a 11-6, 11-3, 11-9 win against Olga Vorobeva , Xiaoxin overcame another Russian opponent in the semi-finals as she beat Mariia Tailakova 11-2, 11-6, 9-11, 11-8, 11-8.
Earlier in the day, Tailakova made headlines as she knocked home favourite Georgina Pota out of the running.
“Mariia is a very young and talented player. I tried to hit slow and quick balls to confuse her. Normally, I am a safety-first player, but if it is necessary, I will take risks, and that was how I pushed my opponent out of her comfort zone,” said Xiaoxin.
The outcome saw Xiaoxin set up a surprise meeting with Russia’s Elizabet Abraamian at the final hurdle. Starting her campaign in the qualifying rounds, Abraamian performed exceptionally well on her way to the last eight where she was just as impressive, securing a crushing 11-6, 11-6, 11-5 victory over fellow Russian competitor Polina Mikhailova, seeded second. Already on cloud nine, Abraamian finished the day with another straight games success as she outclassed Indian number six seed Manika Batra 12-10, 11-9, 12-10, 11-8.
“I worked hard for this result and for my dreams. I think I played very well and I did my best; I am so happy now. It was a tough match because Manika is one of the best players in the world, and I am still a junior. I don’t have a lot of experience from senior tournaments. I am still young, so I will not have any pressure on me in the final,” said Abraamian.
Mixed emotions for home pairings
Top seeds Nandor Ecseki-Adam Szudi were anticipated to represent the host nation in the men’s doubles final but saw their run halted in the semi-finals as the German pair of Tobias Hippler-Ort once again punched above their weight with a 11-8, 11-6, 9-11, 12-10 upset win.
Hippler-Ort will face Kirill Skachkov-Vladimir Sidorenko in the final following the Russian pair’s victory over India’s Manav Vikash Thakkar-Harmeet Desai 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 11-6.
In the women’s doubles, Hungary’s Dora Madarasz-Szandra Pergel battled past Slovakia’s Tatiana Kukulkova-Ema Labosova 11-9, 11-4, 8-11, 11-9 to reach the final.
Russian top seeds Olga Vorobeva-Yana Noskova came out on top against Sweden’s Christina Källberg-Linda Bergström 11-9, 11-4, 11-8 in the other semi-final.
“This match was not as easy as the result shows. The first game was 9-9, and our opponents played in a different style, so we needed to change our tactics. During the second game, we realised that we could beat them with our style of play, so from that point on, it was easier. We know each other well, and that is our secret to success,” said the Russians.
In the sole mixed doubles fixture of the day India’s Sathiyan Gnanasekaran-Manika Batra defeated Aleksandr Khanin-Daria Trigolos 11-6, 11-5, 11-4.