By Neha Aggarwal
The most awaited competition of the year for the junior table tennis players all over the globe, Sun International 2016 World Junior Table Tennis Championships commenced today in the beautiful city of Cape Town in South Africa. First stage of junior boys’ team and junior girls’ team events concluded with top seeds sailing smoothly to the second stage. However, USA and Italy had to face some tough times.
In group A, Czech Republic secured the top spot defeating Brazil and Australia 3-0 each to successfully move to the second stage. Likewise in group B, Belgium showed their dominance surpassing both Egypt and Nigeria 3-0. However, in the next two groups, the top seeds had to struggle to make it to the top spot.
In group C, Italy had to pull out all their weapons to face the mighty Canadians. Jeremy Hazin from Canada was the hero from his team to win two matches but that was not enough to help Canada surpass Italy. A great team effort by the Italians paid off as the trio of Daniele Pinto, Luca Bressan and Matteo Mutti won one match each to lead their team with a 3-2 win over Canada. With this, they progressed to the second stage that will be played on day two, 1st December.
Drama continued in group D as USA was stretched to five matches by Argentina. USA’s superstar Kanak Jha, who was also the youngest Olympian from Team USA at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, showed his mettle as he won both his matches against Argentina’s Francisco Sanchi (3-0) and Horacio Cifuentes (3-1). Victor Liu added to the third victory by winning the final fifth match against Francisco Sanchi in four games. USA won 3-2 moving to the second stage.
Top four teams from first stage progress to the second stage which is again divided into four groups. The top two teams from each group will play the knock out stage starting with the quarterfinals.
Seeded number nine in the tournament, the junior girls’ team from USA made a thumping start on the first day in Cape Town. Amy Wang, Angela Guan and Grace Yang had comfortable wins against Australia (3-0) and Egypt (3-1). It was Amira Yousry from Egypt who beat Amy Wang in the opening match 3-2 however, the rest of the team was too strong to sacrifice the entire fixture.
In group B, Brazil registered a win over both Nigeria and Algeria to secure the top position. Likewise in group C, Serbia dominated over Puerto Rico and Fiji 3-0 to finish first in their group. Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz, who recently gave an impressive TEDx talk, said after her loss against Serbia:
“It was a bit difficult for me and my teammates playing against left-hand players because they played with a lot of spin on the ball. I think for us we have to prepare better next time and play more competitions to be able to face any opposition.”
Matches in group D, resulted in sink with the rankings as Spain beat Canada (3-1) and South Africa (3-0) to march to the second stage to be played on day two.
Thus, top four teams: USA, Brazil, Serbia and Spain will join the top eight teams that are divided into four groups of three each to play in the second stage.