by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Success for Bernadette Szocs; the fact that in recent years she has lined up alongside Daniela Monteiro Dodean and Elizabeta Samara in World Championships and European Championships, gave the Romanian the edge.
She is accustomed to the heat of battle, the big stage, arguably more so than Audrey Zarif. Nevertheless, one must give great credit to Audrey Zarif, she gave total commitment until the last point was decided; she adapted to the scenario.
It was a most impressive performance from Bernadette Szocs, she seized control from the very start, the match being in stark contrast to their one previous encounter in a World ranking event.
They met at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Belgium Open, also a Challenge Series tournament, in the second round of the Under 21 Women’s Singles event. Displaying a most resilient character, on that occasion Audrey Zarif had recovered from a two games to nil deficit to emerge successful by the minimal two point margin in a full distance duel (8-11, 5-11, 11-9, 15-12, 12-10).
“I beat her two years ago and I think that I did not give my best today, besides that she changed her tactics against me. She knows me, she knows what she had to do to beat me and she did it very well. I played very well against the Brazilian Gui Lin in the semi-final and in the doubles as well, but not in singles final.” Audrey Zarif
In São Paulo Bernadette Szocs was determined to redress the balance. Predominantly serving from the centre of the table; a tactic which enabled her to use her favoured backhand attacking strokes, Bernadette Szocs was the more positive player. Time and again she forced Audrey Zarif into the more passive role and thus forced errors.
Most significantly, serving with the forehand, directing the service towards her opponent’s forehand and using the squat technique with knees bent and the racket circumnavigating the ball as though throwing a tomahawk, Bernadette Szocs caused Audrey Zarif notable problems.
At 10-5 in the fourth game Bernadette Szocs held five match points; two were saved but not a third, the Romanian raised her arms in the air, the long journey had been vindicated.
“I am very happy, because, before I come here, I saw that I am the number one in this tournament and I really wanted to win those gold medals to justify my place. I will go home with two medals; I am very proud of my performance.” Bernadette Szocs
It was the first time that either Bernadette Szocs or Audrey Zarif had appeared in a Women’s Singles final on either the ITTF World Tour or ITTF Challenge Series