by Simon Daish
Under 21 Women’s Singles
Kyoka Kato, who entered the category as the second seed, took on Bernadette Szocs- the top seed from Romania-in a thrilling final that went to the deciding end.
Szocs won this title back at the 2014 Belgium Open having beaten Kato at the semi-finals stage, but there was to be no repeat of that result in 2016’s tournament as Kato narrowly edged to victory.
The opening game required deuce to determine the winner and it was 20-year-old Kato who took the lead after great perseverance. Szocs, however, responded well to the game one defeat by taking back-to-back games to move 1-2 ahead in the final.
With just one more game win required for a Bernadette Szocs triumph, Kyoka Kato had little room for error and the Japanese competitor’s hunger for the gold began to grow before she eventually stole the match with two consecutive game wins of her own to win her first Under 21 title on the ITTF World Tour (12-10, 4-11, 9-11, 11-6, 11-6).
“I am very happy, it’s amazing to beat top seed Bernadette Szocs in the final. This is my first title in the Under 21. I like this tournament, two years ago I was in the semi-final. I go back to Japan now to play in the national league. With a lot of confidence I can go there” – Kyoka Kato (Japan).
Under 21 Men’s Singles
The Men’s Singles category of the Under 21 tournament saw another case of Asia prevailing over Europe, after Chinese Taipei’s Liao Cheng-Ting broke Belgian hearts with a win against home player Florent Lambiet.
Both Liao and Lambiet had picked up 4-0 victories in their respective semi-final encounters against Tamas Lakatos (Hungary) and Brian Afanador (Puerto Rico), and so confidence levels were high for both finalists. However, there could only be one champion and that would turn out to be Liao Cheng-Ting.
Games one and two went to the Chinese Taipei contestant obtaining the perfect start to the final for Liao, but Lambiet was giving it his all and with the home crowd backing him the Belgian player managed to gain a game of his own to make it 2-1.
Brave though he was, Lambiet didn’t have enough left in the tank to mount a comeback and Liao brought the match to a close after claiming the fourth end, giving the top seed his second Under 21 success.
“I was the first seed, but the level of the players was very similar. I had to fight in every match. This is my second title in Under 21. I hope now to play well in Austria and Sweden, these are my next tournaments. In the future I hope to win medals at World Championships and Olympics” – Liao Cheng-Ting (Chinese Taipei).
Friday 23rd September: Under 21 Women’s Singles – Main Draw
Friday 23rd September: Under 21 Men’s Singles – Main Draw