by Simon Daish
Taking on France in the final group stage fixture, Russia completed its third consecutive 3-1 victory of the competition with all three of the team’s players registering successful results.
Olga Vorobeva gave Russia the opening lead following her win against Laura Gasnier (11-6, 9-11, 11-5, 11-9), but it didn’t take long for France to cancel out the Russian advantage as Stephanie Loeuillette proved too strong for Polina Mikhailova (5-11, 5-11, 9-11) to level the tie at one match apiece.
The third and fourth encounters were closely contested but ultimately it was the Russian competitors who came through the fixtures with positive outcomes as Yana Noskova and Polina Mikhailova inflicted defeats on French opponents Audrey Zarif (14-12, 11-7, 6-11, 11-3) and Laura Gasnier (11-8, 5-11, 11-6, 11-8), giving Russia top spot.
Poland is the other nation to advance from Group D, following a relatively straightforward win against Belarus.
Li Qian and Katarzyna Grzybowska-Franc were fairly untroubled, defeating Viktoria Pavlovich (11-6, 11-6, 11-4) and Daria Trigolos (8-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-9) with little difficulty. But, Natalia Partyka was pushed hard in her encounter with Nadezhda Bogdanova, requiring the full five games distance to see off the Belarusian player (11-13, 8-11, 11-9, 11-6, 11-6).
“We had a tough match against an opponent who is ranked slightly lower than us in the European ranking, but we had the edge and I had the resilience to fight back in the most relevant game from two-nil down. Unfortunately we finished second in our group, but the main thing is that we are in the quarter-finals and will wait to see which opponent the draw will give us”, Natalia Partyka.
The Netherlands closed out its group stage campaign with a good result against the Czech Republic, but first position in the group has gone to Romania.
There were early cheers from the home fans after Ni Xialian toppled Daniela Monteiro-Dodean (11-6, 15-13, 11-13, 11-9) to give Luxembourg a 1-0 lead over the Romanian team, but that joy was short lived with Elizabeta Samara and Bernadette Szocs emerging victorious in their fixtures to guide Romania to a 1-3 win against the host nation.
“After the first match I felt like I did yesterday, that I couldn’t lose. I was a little bit slow but after the first match I started to play my game and from then onward everything was in control. Now we are waiting for the draw but we are very motivated, ready to fight and ready to give our best”, Elizabeta Samara.
Switzerland has successfully negotiated Group E of the Women’s Challenge Division, finishing in top spot following a 3-0 triumph over Lithuania in the final round of group stage encounters.
Group G sees Azerbaijan and Turkey progress in first and second positions respectively.
Estonia has set a good pace to the sole Women’s Standard Division group after claiming its second victory of the tournament with a fine performance against Latvia while Bosnia and Herzegovina also recorded another win, defeating Macedonia 3-0.