by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Three goals await, a podium finish, a place reserved in the Women’s World Cup to be held later in the year and to match the performances of illustrious predecessors.
All have displayed the potential to achieve those targets; notably in teenage days all won the Junior Girls’ Singles title at the European Youth Championships. Daniela Monteiro-Dodean succeeded in 2005 in Prague and the following year in Sarajevo; she was immediately followed by Elizabeta Samara who was crowned champion in 2007 in Bratislava. Later Bernadette Szocs emerged successful in 2011 in Kazan and in the ensuing year in Schwechat.
However, the Europe Top 16 or in its former guise as the Europe Top 12, has not been the happiest of hunting grounds for the trio.
Montreux will be an eighth appearance for both Elizabeta Samara and Daniela Monteiro-Dodean. A debut in 2009, the best for Elizabeta Samara is semi-final finish in 2016 in Gondomar; for Daniela Monteiro-Dodean, a first excursion in 2008 in Frankfurt, her most successful venture was the quarter-final round in 2009 in 2010 when on both occasions the tournament was staged in debut in Düsseldorf.
Meanwhile, for the somewhat younger Bernadette Szocs who in Montreux is making her fourth consecutive appearance in the tournament, her best was last year in Antibes when a sixth place finish was achieved.
Places in the forthcoming Women’s World Cup at stake, in that tournament, Elizabeta Samara heads the Romanian list by some distance. She is the only player from outside Asia to have reached the final of the Women’s World Cup, when in 2012 she was beaten in the title decider by China’s Liu Shiwen in Huangshi.
Undoubtedly, she will be seeking to reproduce the form displayed in Huangshi in Montreux but she better be careful. In the Chinese city she was beaten by Germany’s Wu Jiaduo in her opening group stage match and only progressed to the main draw by virtue of games ratio; in Montreux there is no second chance, it is straight knock-out from the very start.
Somewhat differently for Daniela Monteiro-Dodean, in three Women’s World Cup appearances, she has yet to negotiate the opening phase; for Bernadette Szocs, the goal in Montreux is to secure one of the three places that will guarantee an first ever invitation to the prestigious tournament.
A top three finish a major target, another is matching the likes of Maria Alexandru, Olga Nemes, Emilia Ciosu, Otilia Badescu and Mihaela Steff, being able to stand tall alongside the Romanian stars of generations earlier.
Olga Nemes and Emilia Ciosu are the members of the illustrious group to have won the women’s event at the Europe Top 12; Olga Nemes won in Cleveland in the north of England in 1983, ten years later in Copenhagen when representing Germany, she was beaten in the final by Emilia Ciosu.
Additionally, Olga Nemes was the runner up in 1986 in Södertälje; a fate which also befell Maria Alexandru, Otilia Badescu and Mihaela Steff. Maria Alexandru fell one step short in 1972 in Zagreb, in 1974 in Trollhatten and in 1979 in Christianstaad. Likewise it was the second step of the podium for Otilia Badescu in 1995 in Dijon and in 2000 for Mihaela Steff in Alassio.
The history is rich, for Elizabeta Samara, Daniela Monteiro-Dodean and Bernadette Szocs, in Montreux. there are definite goals; moreover national pride is at stake.
At the China Construction Bank 2018 ITTF Europe Top 16 Cup, Elizabeta Samara is the no.2 seed, Daniela Monteiro-Dodean the no.9 seed and Bernadette Szocs, the no.10 seed.