Zhang Xuan learning all the time
Photo By: Lluis Franco
2012 Spanish Junior & Cadet Open - ITTF Junior Circuit
So near yet so far; that was the story for the host nation at the quarter-final stage of the Cadet Girls’ Team event at the Spanish Junior and Cadet Open in the Catalan resort of Castell-Platja d’Aro on Thursday 10th May 2012.
They extended the top seeded Russian outfit of Daria Chernova and Maria Malanina, the full five match distance.
The contest between Spain ‘A’ and Russia ‘A’ kept the home supporters on the very edges of their seats, as the host nation duo rose to the occasion and fought back from what seemed a hopeless situation to extend matters to five games.
Russia ‘A’ made the perfect start.
Maria Malanina beat Nora Escartin in three straight games (11-9, 11-3, 11-4), before Daria Chernova extended the Russian lead by overcoming Zhang Xuan in a similarly impressive manner (11-9, 11-3, 11-4).
It was at that stage, the Spanish recovery began.
Nora Escartin and Zhang Xuan joined forces to beat Daria Chernova and Maria Malanina in nail-biting five games duel (11-6, 11-9, 11-13, 7-11, 15-13), before Nora Escartin excelled expectations.
She overcame Daria Chernova in another close five games duel (11-5, 11-7, 8-11, 11-13, 11-7) to set the scene for a showdown between Zhang Xuan and Maria Malanina.
Alas for the host nation it was not to be; Maria Malanina seized control from the start.
She recorded a straight games victory (11-4, 11-7, 11-8) to book the top seeds a place in the penultimate round.
"Reaching the quarter-finals has been a success; we have played against the champions of Europe”, reflected Nora Escartin. “We thought that they would win easily, so for us it was a good result; we kept calm and played with having any pressure.”
No pressure but playing on home soil, it can be a pressure situation; nevertheless, Nora Escartin and Zhang Xuan were not daunted by the pedigree of their adversaries.
"The truth is that this year our improvement is noticeable; we played much better than expected”, concluded Nora Escartin.
Improvement and also the contest was part of a learning process, a fact Zhang Xuan acknowledged.
"I should have changed the rhythm and my forehand needs to better but I think we have improved greatly since last year”, she said. “I think in doubles we were very goos.”
Equally, Almudena Roldan, the coach on duty was delighted.
"I noticed an incredible improvement but against Russia, the champions of Europe, we were afraid to win at the beginning”, she said. “I think Nora has been one of the best Spanish players so far in this tournament.”
Certainly the performance against the powerful Russian team endorses that fact; it was a brave effort and one where belief grew, surely a step forward.
Zhang Xuan (left) and Nora Escartin (right), a formidable partnership
Photo by Lluis Franco