Russian wins Slovenian Open

First 2005 ITTF event

ITTF Press Release

Succeeding in sport is often a question of seizing the opportunity when it arises; in the Red Hall in Velenje on Saturday 15 January 2005, the chance arose for Russia’s Fedor KUZMIN to win his first ever title at an ITTF Pro Tour tournament; he rose to the occasion seized the opportunity and in five games beat Hong Kong’s KO Lai Chak to be crowned champion.

Twenty-one years old, KUZMIN enjoyed an illustrious junior career. In 1996 he was the runner up in the Cadet Boys’ Singles event at the European Youth Championships losing to Denmark’s Michael MAZE, whilst the following year he captured the title overcoming Romania’s Constantin CIOTI at the final hurdle. Three years later, in 2000, he won the European Junior Top Twelve finishing ahead of the Czech Republic’s Jiri VRABLIK and Romania’s Constantin CIOTI.

In the senior ranks he reached the quarter-final stage of the Men’s Singles event at an ITTF Pro Tour tournament for the first time in his career in 2002; when at the Polish Open, he lost 11-9 in the seventh game to the current World champion, Werner SCHLAGER. Meanwhile, in January 2004, at the Croatian Open, he made his first Men’s Singles semi-final appearance on the ITTF Pro Tour when once again it was Werner SCHLAGER who barred further progress.

Gradually, KUZMIN is asserting himself at senior level; following the Croatian Open he reached the quarter-final stage of the Men’s Singles on two further occasions in 2004; those occasions being in Egypt where he lost to Korea’s LEE Chul Seung and in Brazil where once again his nemesis was Werner SCHLAGER.

In Slovenia he was not to be denied. “I’ve felt good throughout the tournament, I believed I could do well”, KUZMIN explained. “I was good mentally this week.” Certainly, he had adopted a positive approach throughout the week and at the semi-final stage his resolve had been tested to the full in his seven game epic against Singapore’s GAO Ning. However, in the final against KO Lai Chak he was always in the ascendancy.

“I led from the start and he didn’t receive my service that well”, added KUZMIN whose powerful topspins had caused the Hong Kong player to make errors. “I attacked with heavy topspin whenever I could and I kept changing the direct of my strokes so that he could not settle into a rhythm; he has a good short game, he’s good over the table and he’s fast; so all the time you must concentrate on varying the spin on the ball.”

KUZMIN won the first two games, lost the third and was in danger of losing the fourth, the game that with the benefit of hindsight was to prove the watershed. “In the fourth I was down 10-7, I recovered and won 13-11”, explained a delighted KUZMIN. “I think that was the turning point.”

Undoubtedly it was the crucial part of the match, the close success gave KUZMIN confidence; he won the fifth game and the title. KO Lai Chak had missed the opportunity to level matters in the fourth game whereas KUZMIN has seized the opportunity and that’s the difference between victory and defeat.

Opportunity knocked for KUZMIN, he seized the moment and he was the champion.

Fedor KUZMIN (RUS) bt KO Lai Chak (HKG) 11-8, 11-4, 7-11, 13-11, 11-8

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