by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Success for Youssef Abdel-Aziz means that since the tournament joined the ITTF World Tour, the Under 21 Men’s Singles event has always been won by an African player.
In 2014 Nigeria’s Ojo Onaolapo beat Singapore’s Ying Jing Yuan at the final hurdle to claim the title, before in both 2015 and 2016, Egypt’s Shady Magdy emerged successful; in 2015 he overcame Ojo Onaolapo in the title decider prior to last year accounting for Diogo Chen, like José Pedro Francisco from Portugal.
Furthermore, Youssef Abdel-Aziz becomes the fourth African and the third Egyptian to win an Under 21 Men’s Singles title on the ITTF World Tour or at a Challenge Series tournament. The only instance of African success, other than in Lagos, was in 2010, when Mohamed El-Sobky won in Morocco; he beat Belgium’s Benjamin Rogiers in the final.
Meanwhile, for Giorgia Piccolin, she is only the second Italian to win an Under 21 Women’s Singles title on either the ITTF World Tour or Challenge Series.
The only other instance is over a decade ago when Nikoletta Stefanova emerged successful on no less than four occasions.
She won in Egypt in 2004 beating Korea’s Yoon Jihye in the final, before in 2005 succeeding in Croatia, Germany and in Slovenia; in Germany she beat Hungary’s Georgina Pota to claim gold, in Croatia and Slovenia, the victim at the final hurdle was Serbia’s Ana-Maria Erdelji.
A long wait, some 12 years but now the wait is over; on the international scene, Italy possesses an Under 21 Women’s Singles winner, the name is Giorgia Piccolin.