by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Winner in the Slovak Republic and Poland in 2016, Adriana Diaz is the player on duty in Lignano with a pedigree of international success, being from a national association that this century has arguably made more progress than any other.
The main rivals for the 16 year old cannot match her success but the countries they represent have, over the annals of time, spawned players that have gained the accolade of being anointed world champions.
Serbia in the guise of Izabela Lupulesku, Sabina Surjan, Tijana Jokic and Dragana Vignjevic field most worthy adversaries, as does Romania in the guise of Tania Plaian, Elena Zaharia; whilst from the Czech Republic the name of Zdena Blaskova appears on the entry list, as does that of Leili Mostafavi of France.
Last year both Sabina Surjan and Tania Plaian reached the quarter-final round in Italy, whilst notably on home soil Izabela Lupulesku was the runner up in Vrnjacka Banja. Similarly, Tijana Jokic was a semi-finalist in Vrnjacka Banja, the round Leili Mostafavi reached in Belgium.
However, in 2017, the players in form and who may well provide the greatest challenge to the aspirations of Adriana Diaz are Zdena Blaskova and Dragana Vignjevic.
At the Stag Under 21 Championships in Sochi, Zdena Blaskova reached the quarter-final stage of the Women’s Singles event, a round in which she gave Germany’s champion elect, Chantal Mantz, the most severe examination. She was beaten by the very narrowest of margins in the deciding seventh game.
Meanwhile, at the Czech Junior and Cadet Open, Dragana Vignejic caught the eye; she progressed to the semi-final stage of the Junior Girls’ Singles event, losing to Japan’s Maki Shiomi, the eventual winner.
A total of 41 players will compete in the Junior Girls’ Singles event in Lignano.