by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In 2011 in Kazan and two years later in Schwechat, Bernadette Szocs won the Junior Girls’ Singles title at the European Youth Championships; earlier in 2007 in Bratislava, compatriot Elizabeta Samara had won the same title.
Coincidentally each beat members of the same family, Elizabeta Samara overcame Amelie Solja to arrest the title; on both occasions Bernadette Szocs accounted for Petrissa Solja. Later Amelie Solja was to change her allegiance from Germany to Austria.
As yet Bernadette Szocs has to win an ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles title. No such award has yet come her way but she has ITTF World Tour Under 21 Women’s Singles titles to her credit; she won in Belgium in 2014, the following year in Qatar.
A common factor with Elizabeta Samara in that likewise Bernadette Szocs became European Youth champion beating member of the Solja family; now could there be another common factor in São Paulo?
The first time that Elizabeta Samara won an ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles title was in Brazil in 2013 when the tournament was staged in Santos, the city is in the state of São Paulo.
Could Bernadette Szocs once again tread in the footsteps of Elizabeta Samara, win her first and in the same Brazilian state?
Favourite for gold but there is notable opposition from the host nation and from France.
Brazil’s Gui Lin, the player who won the Women’s Singles title at the 2016 ITTF Latin American Championships, is the no.2 seed with the player she beat in the final on that occasion, colleague Caroline Kumahara being the no.3 seed.
However, if any player has the right to have an air of confidence entering the tournament, it is Caroline Kumahara; on Sunday 30th April she won the Women’s Singles title at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Chile Open.
Next in line in the order of merit is Audrey Zarif of France, followed by Brazil’s Bruna Takahashi and Chile’s Paulina Vega.
Notably Paulina Vega reached the semi-final stage of the Women’s Singles event at last week’s Seamaster 2017 ITTF Challenge Chile Open; Audrey Zarif and Bruna Takahashi have yet to shine this year but both impressed at the end of last year in Cape Town at the Sun International 2016 World Junior Championships.
Both emerged successful in the first stage of the Girls’ Singles event; Bruna Takahashi progressed to round two; Audrey Zarif to round three.
In São Paulo can they build on those performances and gain a podium finish; moreover can Bernadette Szocs emulate Elizabeta Samara?