11 Aug 2017

The top seeds prevailed, the top two seeds experienced defeat; such was the scenario at the 2017 ITTF Challenge Nigeria Open in Lagos as the finalists in the Under 21 Men’s Singles and the Under 21 Women’s Singles were decided on the evening of Friday 11th August.

Egypt’s Youssef Abdel-Aziz and Portugal’s José Pedro Francisco caused the surprises; their female counterparts Hungary’s Bernadette Balint and Giorgia Piccolin advanced as status suggested.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Notably the top four seeds all through the semi-finals; in the Under 21 Women’s Singles event, Bernadett Balint, the top seed, beat Egypt’s Amira Yousry, the no.3 seed (11-9, 11-7, 15-13); Giorgia Piccolin overcame Nigeria’s Esther Oribamise (11-8, 13-11, 11-5).

Wins as expected, at the same stage of the Under 21 Men’s Singles event, it was the reverse situation.

Youssef Abdel-Aziz, the no.4 seed, accounted for Romania’s Rares Sipos, the top seed in a tension packed five games full distance duel decided by the very narrowest of margins (12-11, 9-11, 4-11, 11-8, 14-12). The win meant he extracted revenge for the defeat suffered in the Cadet Boys’ Team event at the 2014 Hungarian Junior and Cadet Open.

“I think it was the hardest match for me in the tournament so far because he was ranked number one and is rated higher than me in the world. We played three years ago and I lost. There was a lot of pressure on me in the match but I am happy that I won to make my first final at Under 21 level.” Youssef Abdel Aziz

Success against the odds and by the minimal two point margin in the deciding game; it was exactly the same scenario in the counterpart penultimate round contest.

José Pedro Francisco, the no.3 seed, overcame Italy’s Carlo Rossi, the no.2 seed (11-8, 10-12, 9-11, 11-5, 13-11) in a contest that was arguably too close to call. They had met on two prior occasions in world ranking events; at the 2015 European Youth Championships the verdict had gone in favour of Carlo Rossi; one year later at the 2016 Polish Junior and Cadet Open it was José Pedro Francisco who emerged victorious.

“To be honest with you I did not expect that I will be playing in the Under 21 final having lost my first two matches in the Men’s Singles against Nigerian players; their style of play was a bit different from what I am used to in Europe. However, I had to forget the loss and focus on the Under 21 event, my confidence increased going into every match. I also think the crowd was against me as they were supporting my opponent who is also a fantastic player. I am happy that we made them to enjoy the match and I hope I can play better in the final to win the title. It is my first final at Under 21 level.” José Pedro Francisco

The final of both the Under 21 Men’s Singles and Under 21 Women’s Singles events will be played on Saturday 12th August.

2017 ITTF Challenge Lagos (Nigeria) Youssef Abdel-Aziz Giorgia Piccolin Bernadett Balint José Pedro Francisco

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