A Closer Look at the Belgian Open Draw

The Racketlon world is getting set for one of the highlights of the year as the next event on the World Tour - the Belgian Open - will get going for real tomorrow afternoon with the first round of the Men's Elite Class. Draws are available on the tournament homepage (direct link to draws and results) and here are some hints on what to look out for:

Expected Quarterfinals according to the world ranking/seeding:
(1) Alexander Köpf (GER WR5) - Peter Duyck (BEL WR20)
(2) Olli Zwiers (GER WR19) - Peter Vesely (CZE WR13)
(3) Volker Sach (GER WR15) - Gert Peersman (BEL WR16)
(4) Andrew Kim (GER WR22) - Rickard Persson (SWE WR6)

(2) What could Germany's new rising star Achim Berkemeier (WR28) achieve in the second quarter? After Class B tournament victories in both Holland (Zevenaar) and Austrian Open last year he had a bit of an Elite breakthrough in the Czech Open two months ago when he took the bronze medal pushing fellow countryman Kudicke (WR12) well into the tennis in the semifinal;
Kudicke-Berkemeier +2 (4-21, 21-2, 18-21, 21-18)
In the first round of the Belgian Open he will be put to a good reality test facing Sweden's vintage player Mika Hasmats (Swedish Ranking: 9), which should mean very good table tennis. Zwiers should have to watch out for any of these two players in the second round.

(3) The third quarter contains one of the favourites, arguably, to win the whole tournament; England's Douglas Struthers. Moderate travelling on the tour in combination with the characteristics of the new ranking system (rewarding frequent participation to a much higher extent than earlier) has caused him to quickly fall down the rankings and he currently holds a position as no.24. But it was not long ago that he gave the World No.1, Eliasson, a series of three high profile battles that have now become almost classic, starting at the English Open in October 2006 (see report);
Eliasson-Struthers +1 (tt:21-18 ba:19-21 sq:19-21 te:23-21)
...continuing with similar results at the Austrian Open in November the same year and in Swedish Open two months later. Eventhough none of these three tries actually resulted in victory they brought Struthers to a career high no.5 on the world ranking and afterwards his name has sometimes been mentioned together with those of Kärkkäinen, Eliasson and (when properly prepared) Thomson to form an exclusive group of world class players "in their own league". In the Belgian Open, however, he is unseeded and faces Holland's rapidly improving Bart Beks in the first round before taking on Belgium's Gert Peersman.

(4) In the fourth quarter Belgium's refreshingly ambitious Adolphe Fernandez-Diez looks to be challenging (provided that he survives the first round against French wildcard Sébastien Plançon) second seed Persson. With very good tennis and excellent table tennis his profile should push Persson a good while. Fernandez-Diez' record from the Worlds last December (where he won the plate after having lost a tight match against Germany's no.1 Schaub in the first round) should impress almost anyone and he can't be far off the position as Belgian no.1 (in obvious competition with Peter Duyck). Sample results from the Worlds:
Fernandez-Diez - Elmar Schaub -6 (21-14, 13-21, 14-21, 12-14)
Fernandez-Diez - Gert Peersman +20 (21-5(!), 21-16, 14-21, 8-2)
Fernandez-Diez - Petr Vesely +14 (21-10, 21-10, 5-21, 21-13)

...but a French wildcard is interesting... Who is Sébastien Plançon?

The following answer arrived from Geert Blomme:
Plançon is top 50 badminton in France and top 200 in squash. He also knows how to play tennis...
In my opinion the bottom quarter is extremely strong with Persson, Plançon and Fernandez-Diez.
It's almost unfair if you ask me (taking into account that not many top 20 players are participating this year)

Stay tuned to the Belgian Open results page for frequent updates throughout the weekend.