Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Mexico and Colombia Book Semi-Final Places in Santo Domingo
Mexico and Colombia, neither team amongst the top four seeds, reached the semi-finals of the Women’s Steam event at the Latin American Championships in Santo Domingo on Friday 4th March 2008 following hard fought quarter-final victories over Brazil and Venezuela respectively.

Star of the show in their three matches to two victory over Venezuela was eighteen year old Paula Medina; whilst for Mexico, who overcame Brazil three-one, once again they must thank Yadira Silva.
Paula Medina showing a growing maturity at the Latin American Championships
Both young ladies remained unbeaten.

Perfect Start
In the duel against Venezuela, Paula Medina gave Colombia the perfect start by beating Fabiola Ramos, the player against whom she had lost on the first day of the Latin American Olympic Qualification Tournament.

Clearly, she had learnt from the experience. “Yes, I lost to Fabiola the last time we played but now I know how to play against her”, said Paula Medina. “Today I didn’t play so strongly, I concentrated on trying to keep the ball on the table.”

Venezuela Level
A good start for Colombia but then Venezuela levelled with Ruaida Ezzedine beating Joana Araque. Tension was mounting, Paula Medina had won in three straight games, Ruaida Ezzeddine won in four; the next three all went the full five games distance.

The doubles was crucial with Joana Araque and Luisa Ezzeddine recovering from a two games to one deficit to secure a five games victory and give Colombia the lead.

“It was important that we were the first pair to attack”, said Johana Araque. “As often as possible Luisa attacked with her forehand; also, we try to keep a low rhythm, not rush, not play too fast and play consistently.”

Level Again
Patience worked, Colombia had the lead but then Venezuela levelled with Fabiola Ramos winning a nail-biting contest against Luisa Zuluaga; it was two-all and thus the eventual outcome rested on the shoulders of Paula Medina and Luisa Zuluaga.

The verdict went to the former who recovered from a two games to one deficit to ensure success and a place on the medal rostrum.

“Early in the match I had real problems returning Luisana’s service but I got better as the match progressed”, explained Paula Medina. “As against Fabiola I tried to play consistently and make sure that when I was serving I could play a strong first attack with my forehand.”

Tense Start
Success for Colombia and also for Mexico against the number two seeds, Brazil thanks to Yadira Silva who gave her country the perfect start by beating Mariany Nonaka in a tense five games duel before ending matters with a straight games win over Claudia Ikeizumi.

Crucial Doubles
In between, Karin Sako levelled matters by beating Laura Rosales in four games but victory in the doubles contest by Sara Rosas and Laura Rosales over Claudia Ikeizumi and Karin Sako swung matters in Mexico’s favour.

In the semi-finals, the Mexico faces the Dominican Republic whilst Colombia confronts Cuba; as winners of groups one and two respectively the Dominican Republic and Colombia received byes at the quarter-final stage.