Is Qiu’s title run a sign for bigger things to come or just a one-time success?
2022 European Table Tennis Championships brought us some quality intrigue and surprising results, especially when it came to the knockout stage.
The former Top 15 player Jonathan Groth failed to make it past the Round of 64 and lost to a 21-year-old Serbian Dimitrije Levajac. It took seven sets for Levajac to make an upset. The Hungarian Csaba Andras managed to turn a 0-3 game around against the experienced Frenchman Emmanuel Lebesson, winning four sets in a row. However, he was knocked out in the next round against Dimitrij Ovtcharov 0-4. The 19-year-old Belgian talent Adrien Rassenfosse also was among the surprises of the tournament. In the Round of 64, he got a 4-3 win against Simon Gauzy. He was just one set short of making it to the Round of 16, losing 3-4 to Tomislav Pucar.
The decisive stages of the singles event brought some drama. Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson was on a good run up until the semi-finals, winning both, Felix and Alexis Lebrun, as well as Dimitrij Ovtcharov. Unfortunately, he had to withdraw from the match against Darko Jorgic, after hitting his wrist against the table. Karlsson took a medical timeout but wasn’t able to continue the game. The Swede admitted after the game that he was in great shape during the tournament, and it was painful to not have a chance to finish the game. Indeed, Karlsson looked strong all the way to the semi-finals, and it would have been an interesting matchup against his former Borussia Düsseldorf teammate Dang Qiu.
For Dang Qiu, this will be a tournament to remember. He has been a late bloomer, who finally seems to have reached his peak. Until 2022, Qiu did not have much success in the international arena, winning his only European Championships medal a year earlier at the team event in Cluj-Napoca. 2022 has been a great year for the 26-year-old German. He won several medals on the professional circuit, won his first national title in a singles event, and also added German Bundesliga and Champions League titles after joining Borussia Düsseldorf. Adding a gold medal at the European Championships seems like a cherry on top.
Qiu had a relatively smooth path to his gold medal, and surprisingly, his toughest match was in the Round of 64 against the Turkish Ibrahim Gündüz. He had a 3-2 lead at one point, but Qiu managed to make a comeback and advance to the next round. He confidently got past his German teammates – Timo Boll, and Benedikt Duda, as well as Swede Mattias Falck in the semi-finals.
The final turned out to be less entertaining than expected. Jorgic managed to win the opening set, but that was it. Qiu cruised past Slovenian in the next four sets, and the home crowd had a chance to celebrate the success of their compatriot.
Qiu and his teammate Benedikt Duda were just a step away from getting a medal in the doubles event. In the quarterfinals match-up, they lost 2-3 to the finalists – the experienced Austrian duo Robert Gardos and Daniel Habesohn. The talented Lebrun brothers won their first European Championships medals, reaching the semi-finals stage. In the final, Falck and Karlsson got a confident victory over the Austrians, and Karlsson got at least some compensation for his painful exit in the singles event.
This tournament showed that the landscape of European table tennis has plenty of intrigues when it comes to the continent’s major events. Qiu’s victory shows that there is no clear leader in Europe, and plenty of players can have an impressive run. For the fans, it’s great. You can’t guess your favorite, and surprises are possible. However, when it comes to the competition against the Chinese and Asian players, it seems that there is no one to fill Timo Boll’s shoes. Truls Möregårdh had a great run at the World Championships but hasn’t been as impressive since that. Lebrun brothers look promising, but their ceiling might not be high enough to compete with Chinese stars.
The next World Championships might be not that successful for the European players, but all the continental competitions will be promising and exciting for sure. Some of the older players might step down and retire soon and open up the stage for the young bucks. Who knows, maybe there is a hidden gem in the making somewhere in the mix.