Sergey Astakhov: “Any medal at the European Championships will be a success for our tennis players”

The Table Tennis European Championships will launch on September 25th in Yekaterinburg. First group stage matches of the team competition will take place today. Russian men’s team will meet with the Romanians and the women’s team – with the representatives of Poland. The Head Coach of the Russian National Table Tennis team Sergei Astakhov have told the ROC Information Service about the chances of our Ping-Pong masters and about the Olympic Qualification System.

– What is your estimate of the team tournament preliminary stage draw for the Russian national teams?

– The Men’s team (Grigory Vlasov, Alexei Liventsov, Michael Paikov, Kirill Skachkov, Alexander Shibaev) will share the group with Romania, Sweden and Austria. Austrians are in the second place of the continental ranking behind the Germans. At the European Games in Baku, we lost to them with a score of 0-3. We met with Romanian team in the first round of last year’s European Championships in Portugal and won in a hard struggle. The Swedes became third at that tournament. In general, the group is even. We can get out of it ranked first, or not get out of it at all – both is possible. The women’s team (Maria Dolgikh, Polina Mikhailova, Yana Noskova, Yulia Prokhorova and Anna Tikhomirova) will play with Poland, Hungary and Luxembourg. The Hungarian team stands above us in the rankings. Chinese women’s team is among the leaders. Every point will have to be contested. We can only wish good luck to both of our teams. Any medal would be a great success for them. But first they will have to take first or second place in their groups. This will be a pass to the quarterfinals.

– What can Russians expect in singles and doubles?

– Our hopes are connected primarily with men’s doubles. Fedor Kuzmin / Grigory Vlasov and Alexei Liventsov / Mikhail Paikov may contend for medals. In singles we set ourselves a more modest task – to achieve top eight finishers. We’ll see what the draw will decide.

– Will all strongest tennis players go to Yekaterinburg?

– The whole elite of the women’s Table Tennis will meet at this Championships. A two-time Olympic medalist, seven-time world medalist and 15-time European champion Timo Boll of Germany will definitely not perform in the men’s team tournament due to injury.

– At the European Games in Baku the winners of the singles have earned Olympic qualification spots. Rio Olympic qualification spots will not be contested in Yekaterinburg, is that right?

– No. The Olympic Qualification System is quite complicated in Table Tennis. Not to bore the readers listing all the details, I will only say the most important thing. From April 6th to April 10th the Qualifying Tournament will be held in Istanbul, on the results of which the top 10 men and women tennis players will have the right to perform at the Rio de Janeiro Games. The remaining 22 quota places will be allocated based on world rankings as of 1May, 2016. 

It is to be recalled that at the Summer Olympics four sets of medals will be contested in the Table Tennis: in the men’s and women’s team competitions and in men’s and women’s singles competitions.