The Ground Shook – Explosive Day 3 at WTDGC 2019
Fair to say that the established order took a beating today! Two of the medal teams from 2017 dropped out of the semi final places and a bold decision by Silver medalists Finland have landed them in hot water in the morning!
They say that the day before Finals is a Moving Day – If that’s the case then the earth moved for many of the top flight teams much as it has all week at Mäetaguse. It is a mining area and the explosions have at time shook the ground and the players standing on it!
We started Day 3 with the final games in Round 2. First and Second place teams battled for position and a chance to avoid the top three who would have first pick of their quarter final opponents. It was clear that Finland and Estonia would probably top their Pools and that was the case – but the other two Pools were wide open. The match up between France and the Czech Republic was closest – the match was tied on 4 points each but the French won the tie break by winning both doubles matches. One factor about the format of this event is that an emphasis has been put on how the team play together – and Doubles matchplay is the best example of that! Make that a centre of Team play and then all else makes sense to those in the thick of it. It is not up to you as an individual but how you work best with your team mate – be they Junior, Woman or a lowly ranked MPO3! It’s not all about the best Open player in your country by a long way.
Germany and Austria – yet another pair of neighboring countries – went head to head with Germany coming out on top. Their decision to come to this event fore the first time justified. Not only by their play but by the way in which they have all presented themselves as ambassadors for their country and for our sport.
In the only upset of the second round Canada pushed New Zealand out of medal contention to finish second to Finland in their Pool. And still the Fins have not dropped a point – not even to a draw. As we have predicted from Day 1 they are the team to beat – and that hasn’t happened in a single match – yet! Slovakia made up the last of the top eight and set up the Captains Pick for lunchtime. Shown live on Facebook the top three teams from Round 2 chose their opponents for Round 3 – Quarter Final showdowns were about to be fixed. Finland, and Captain Janne Hirsimaki, picked Slovakia. Estonia – maybe surprisingly – picked the sharp Czech Republic when all the money was on them taking on Canada. so Germany decided to play them instead. That left Austrai vs France which was a match up nobody saw coming.
Meanwhile in the 9-12 division Great Britain chose Spain – so New Zealand played Lithuania. And this rematches in the afternoon were not a simple as they may seem given previous results. GBR finally saw off the Spanish after a hard fought set of matches with wins for both their Doubles pairings and their MPO 2 John Tweed. New Zealand has a much harder ride and the Lithuanians pushed to the last but New Zealand earned a rematch against Great Britain for 9th place in the morning.
In the main draw Finland beat Slovakia to a max 8-0 justifying their Captains Pick. Estonia only dropped one point to the Czech Republic and Germany beat Canada in three of the four matches. East victories one might think but with 18 hole Best Shot Matchplay Doubles nothing is that simple. Some games took us into the Rain zone and a late finish with matches lasting over 4 hours. This was attrition at its most demanding and those that were fit and prepared after three days and 35 holes of Best Shot today were best placed to take advantage in the last hole of the day.
This is what happened in the Austria v France match. These were the teams that were not chosen in the Captains Pick and were probably surprised – especially Austria. France certainly came into the Championships as one of the favourites and the Quarter final round would be critical to their ambitions. They came up against a very young and talented Austrian squad who seemed to hit every line and every put. Despite everything that France threw at them the Austrian Team held strong and finally won the match 5-3. Disappointed, the French now have to face the Czech Republic again, but in a different format with different pairings, to secure 5th place. Canada and Slovakia play for 7th – not a place the World Champions from 2017 would have wanted to accept at the start of the event.
So, what of the top four? The top seeded team had another Captains Pick – and this was Finland. They could chose from the strongly fancied home nation Estonia, Germany or Austria. Surely they would pick the Austrians – they had lost to the Germans already and only just saw off the French . But they might also chose the Germans to keep them at bay. But no – they picked Estonia. This was not unexpected but it was still a surprise. The Canadians had used much the same strategy in 2017 to dispatch the USA – and though it may be a disappointment that the best two teams in the event are not going to meet in the Final it makes tomorrow morning even more tense and exciting. To be sure the Fins may regret this choice but they are clearly so confident in all areas of their game and in all their players that nothing phases them right now.
Meanwhile Austria and Germany, both first time participants here, pick up where they left off – and whoever wins will have a battle on their hands for Gold and Silver medal positions! Watch out for more explosive and earth shattering results tomorrow.