The fifth day of the ITTF World Hopes Week and Challenge, Friday 13th June, saw 23 teams fight for the top prize in the Team tournament.
Three days of competition in Otocec started with the group stage of the Team event; six groups in the first stage, the outfits finishing in first and second places in each group advanced to the main draw, the remaining teams progressed to the consolation event.
Emotions were on display throughout the day as four boys and four girls will be selected to represent the World Hopes team in October and November at the ITTF World Cadet Challenge in Barbados.
Tricky Path to Finals During the training camp, coaches were able to acquire clues about players’ levels and many of them would probably have picked Team USA and Team Mexico as the potential winners; they would not be disappointed.
Mexico’s Clio Barcenas and Dario Arce encountered problems in the group stage where an inspired Lea Paulin and Matija Novel from Slovenia nearly caused an early upset. Both singles matches were won by the Mexicans by a minimal two point margin in the deciding game. The home duo won a consolation point by winning another thriller in the mixed double match.
A place in the main draw secured, Clio Barcenas and Dario Arce beat Brazil (Beatriz Ayumi Kimoto, Diogo Cardoso Silva) and Sweden (Moa Arvidsson, Martin Friis) two-nil in the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.
Meanwhile, American hopefuls Amy Wang and Michael Tran progressed to the semi-finals without any major hiccups but had to fight for their lives against Tan Wan Yi Cayla and Pan Yew En Koen from Singapore.
Amy Wang won her matches with a loss of a single game, only to have to come back in the arena to play the deciding mixed doubles match, after Michael Tran lost his singles match to Pan Yew En Koen by 9 – 11 in the deciding game. The mixed doubles match was won by Amy Wang and Michael Tran but not everything was easy (11-4, 11-9, 14-12).
Michael Tran left versus Dario Arce right in the Team final in Otocec Photo by Tim Sfilgoj
Going the Distance Friday 13th is considered an unlucky day in western superstition but it was all smiles for the Westerners from the USA.
Amy Wang gave her team a winning start in the final by beating Clio Barcenas (11-4, 11-8, 11-3); both girls progressing to the final unbeaten.
The second match saw an intense affair between Dario Arce and Michael Tran. Notably Dario Arce had beaten Martin Friis from Sweden in the semi-finals. The Swede really impressed the coaches during the training camp and also won both preparation tournaments.
In the final Dario Arce lost the first game against Michael Tran but once into his rhythm, nobody could stop him. He won in four games (7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-6).
The first place was to be decided in a mixed doubles match. The Mexicans took the first game but never recovered as Amy Wang and Michael Tran triumphed (10-12, 11-2, 14-12, 11-1). Game three saw the American pair squander four game points at 10-6 but they managed to succeed in the end. In the fourth game they raced into a 10-0 lead.
Amy conceded a solidary point, before Damien Arce’s forehand clipped the net and flew long to give Team USA a well-deserved victory.
On Saturday and Sunday, Boys’ and Girls’ Singles competitions will be played. With some pressure off their shoulders, can the American duo repeat success from Team Event?
Incredible point in the final between Michael Tran wearing the red shirt and Dario Arce in the black shirt