07 Feb 2017

An all-Slovenian final was a possibility when the concluding day of play, Sunday 5th February, commenced in the Russian city of Sochi at the Stag 2017 European Under 21 Championships; when the penultimate round had drawn to a conclusion, the verdict was Croatia versus Germany.

Both Darko Jorgic and Deni Kozul experienced defeats and had to settle for bronze; silver finished in the hands of Qiu Dong; Tomislav Pucar clinched gold.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Flying the flag, Tomislav Pucar justified his highly rated position; the no.2 seed, with Sweden’s Anton Kallberg, the top seed, having suffered a first round exit at the hands of Poland’s Marek Badowsk (11-1, 11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 6-11, 5-11, 11-5), the Croatian was the favourite for the title.

At the semi-final stage he beat Darko Jorgic, the no.3 seed (9-11, 11-8, 11-13, 13-11, 14-12, 11-3), before securing the top prize at the expense of qualifier Qiu Dang (11-6, 11-2, 9-11, 14-12, 11-9).

In the opposite half of the draw, in the penultimate round, Qiu Dang had ousted Deni Kozul, likewise a qualifier and surprise semi-finalist in a hard fought full distance seven games duel (12-10, 10-12, 8-11, 6-11, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6).

“I am no.2 two seed here and everybody is motivated to play against me. I do not let the pressure affect my game. I do not care who is at the opposite side, but for sure Jorgic was very dangerous adversary. I won the opening game, in the next Darko took his game to the next level. I had to stay calm and that is exactly what helped. I seized my opportunity when Darko become nervous; I saw that moment and took advantage. I do not like to play long rallies, because I am tall, I prefer to attack and that is what I did today; with good receives I played to the corners”, Tomislav Pucar after beating Darko Jorgic

“After all, it all comes to self-confidence. I believed I could win this match. I was looking for a way all the time when I was down. I played against Deni three or four years before and he has improved his game very much. It was very hard to find the game against him. I changed the tactics, the speed, the rhythm, the distance from the table. I tried everything, my service game started to bring me an advantage. I seized the opportunity and went for victory”, Qiu Dang following his semi-final success in opposition to Deni Kozul

“I had the advantage of a two-nil lead but when Qiu won the third game it made me nervous. I tried to stay calm; his backhand is very strong. Therefore, I changed my tactics; I am very satisfied with my forehand, which helped me a lot. Today, for me the semi-final was the final before the final. Darko gave me a severe test”, Tomislav Pucar looking back on his victory

Day Four: Stag 2017 European Under 21 Championships

Photos: Alex Lomaev – Butterfly

Latest results: Stag European Under 21 Championships.

Stag 2017 European Under 21 Championships Darko Jorgic Tomislav Pucar Deni Kozul Qiu Dang