A First for Kalinikos Kreanga, a Fourth for Li Jiao at Europe Top Twelve

By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Kalinikos Kreanga, many times close in major tournaments, succeeded in Liège Photo By: Dr Stephan Roscher  



Kalinikos Kreanga of Greece and Li Jiao of the Netherlands won the respective Men’s and Women’s Singles titles at the Europe Top Twelve tournament, which concluded in the Belgian city of Liège, on Sunday 7th January 2011.

It was for Kalinikos Kreanga, always a dangerous adversary with his expansive and uninhibited style of play, a first ever win in the tournament in eleven appearances; his first being in 1996 also in Belgium when the tournament was held in Charleroi.

Meanwhile, for Li Jiao, the record is more impressive, it was her fourth win in seven appearances, she made her debut in the French city of Rennes in 2005.

At the final hurdle Li Jiao, the no.1 seed, beat Viktoria Pavlovich of the Netherlands (11-8, 11-7, 11-6, 11-2) to clinch the women’s crown, before Kalinikos Kreanga beat top seed, Vladimir Samsonov in a close seven games encounter (11-8, 9-11, 12-10, 13-11, 6-11, 3-11, 11-9) to arrest the male title.

Denied Fifth Title
In so doing he gained revenge for the defeat he had suffered in the final in Arezzo against Vladimir Samsonov and had denied the man from Belarus his fifth Europe Top Twelve Men’s title.

However, Vladimir Samsonov did set two records for the tournament, one of which may be quite proud, the other he may well want to forget.

In Liège it was his 16th appearance in the Europe Top Twelve, it was also the 12th time he had reached the final of the Men’s Singles event; no player, man nor woman has reached more finals, the nearest being Sweden’s Jan-Ove Waldner who reached eleven.

Runner Up Again
A record to cherish but the one Vladimir Samsonov will want to forget is that no player has lost in more finals!

He has now finished in runners up spot on no less than eight occasions, including the most recent four appearances!

Ahead of the Field
In that respect he is well ahead of the field.

Jan-Ove Waldner finished in second place on four occasions but he did win seven times; whilst fo the women the leading runner up is Bettine Vriesekoop of the Netherlands. She finished in the silver position on five occasions, winning once.

Second Place
Furthermore, it may well be a record that both eventual winners finished in second place in their group stage matches!

Kalinikos Kreanga had to rely on games ratio to qualify for the second stage. In the first phase of matches he lost to Russia’s Alexei Smirnov in five games, the margin by which he beat Austria’s Chen Weixing who defeated Alexei Smirnov in six games.

Alexei Smirnov thus won the group with Kalinikos Kreanga in second spot and Chen Weixing eliminated.

Equally, Li Jiao encountered problems in the group stage of matters. She was beaten by Turkey’s Hu Melek in seven games; both Li Jiao and Hu Melek overcame Romania’s Elizabeta Samara, so it was second spot for the champion elect with Hu Melek in first place and Elizabeta Samara third.

Only One
In fact of the four finalists, only Viktoria Pavlovich maintained an unblemished record in the group stage and to achieve the task she had to cause an upset. She beat second seed Shen Yanfei of Spain and Hungary’s Krisztina Toth.

Similar to Kalinikos Kreanga, Vladimir Samsonov had suffered first day blues.

He lost to Romania’s Adrian Crisan in six games before beating Austria’ Robert Gardos in five games who, in turn, overcame Adrian Crisan in six games; thus the end result was first place for Vladimir Samsonov with Adrian Crisan in second spot and Robert Gardos, a tourist.

Second Stage
Places in the second stage booked, Kalinikos Kreanga beat Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov (11-7, 12-10, 11-6, 6-11, 9-11, 7-11, 11-8) and Austria’s Werner Schlager (11-6, 8-11, 11-5, 12-10, 11-8) to reach the final; whilst at the same stages, Vladimir Samsonov defeated Germanmy’s Bastian Steger (11-8, 11-6, 7-11, 11-7, 11-8) and Russia’s Alexey Smirnov (11-3, 11-5, 8-11, 11-6, 11-5).

Meanwhile in the second phase of proceedings, Li Jiao accounted for Poland’s Li Qian (6-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-9, 11-4) and Spain’s Shen Yanfei (11-8, 11-6, 11-7, 11-4) en her way to the final showdown with Viktoria Pavlovich; the Belarus player beating Germany’s Kristin Silbereisen (11-9, 3-11, 12-10, 11-8, 5-11, 13-11) and Turkey’s Hu Melek (11-5, 13-15, 8-11, 11-5, 14-16, 11-4, 12-10) in her respective quarter and semi-final duels.

Final Positions
Men’s Singles
1. Kalinikos Kreanga (Greece) 2. Vladimir Samsonov (Belarus) 3-4. Alexey Smirnov (Russia) Werner Schlager (Austria) 5-8. Dimitrij Ovtcharov (Germany), Jean-Michel Saive (Belgium), Bastian Steger (Germany), Adrian Crisan (Romania) 9-12 Pär Gerell (Sweden), Robert Gardos (Austria), Chen Weixing (Austria)

Women’s Singles
1. LI Jiao (Netherlands) 2. Viktoria Pavlovich (Belarus) 3-4. Li Jie (Netherlands), Hu Melek (Turkey) 5-8. Liu Jia (Austria), Li Qian (Poland), Kristin Silbereisen (Germany),
Shen Yanfei (Spain) 9-12. Wu Jiaduo (Germany), Elizabeta Samara (Romania), Daniela Dodean (Romania), Krisztina Toth (Hungary)

Full Details and Results
For further information visit the websites of The European Table Tennis Union and Philippe Saive Management

Li Jiao of the Netherlands once again the Europe Top Twelve Women’s Singles champion
Photo by An Sung Ho


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