by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
In the opening round of the third stage of play, matters organised on the knock-out principle, Anastasia Kolish beat Italy’s Jamila Laurenti (11-4, 11-8, 11-5, 11-4) before accounting for Poland’s Anna Wegrzyn (11-9, 11-5, 12-10, 4-11, 8-11, 6-11, 11-8).
Similarly, focused on the task in hand, Valeria Shcherbatykh overcame Belgium’s Lisa Lung (11-7, 11-9, 11-4, 11-7) prior to ending the hopes of the host nation’s Alina Nikitchanka, the no.3 seed (11-3, 11-8, 11-2, 10-12, 11-1). A notable win in opposition to Alina Nikitchanka, a player in form, in the opening round she had beaten Romania’s Adina Diaconu, the no.2 seed (8-11, 13-11, 7-11, 118, 11-4, 11-5).
“I had prepared well before this match. The hardest thing was to maintain focus throughout the match, because my usual problem is that I lose concentration. Lisa Lung is a serious rival, and I wasn’t really sure about the result of the encounter. What’s more, I lost to her twice in the past.” Valeria Shcherbatykh following the win over Lisa Lung
Defeat for Belarus at Russian hands and not for the first time in the tournament; in the second group stage Anastasia Kolish had also beaten Alina Nikitchanka (3-11, 8-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-3, 11-7); Valeria Shcherbatykh had overcome Nadezhda Bogdanova, the no.5 seed (11-7, 13-11, 9-11, 13-11, 11-9).
Impressive performances from Anastasia Kolish and Valeria Shcherbatykh; it was the same from their compatriot, Mariia Tailakova, the no.8 seed; after recording an opening round win in opposition to Slovakia’s Tatiana Kukulova (11-3, 8-8, 11-4, 11-6, 16-14) she accounted for Germany’s Wan Yuan, the top seed (7-11, 8-11, 11-3, 11-5, 11-4, 11-7) to reserve her last four place.
“The last time we played was three years ago as cadets. I beat her in five games just like today. Her game has not changed a lot. I knew that she had a passive approach and that I had to attack first.” Mariia Tailakova after overcoming Tatiana Kukulova
Three Russians through to the semi-finals and against the odds; it is the same for the same further name. Poland’s Naralia Bajor, the no.7 seed, duly progressed. After adding to Romania pain by beating Andreea Dragoman (11-6, 13-11, 11-13, 11-4, 11-9), she ended the hopes of Turkey’s Ozge Yilmaz (11-6, 11-7, 11-7, 14-16, 12-14, 11-7). Notably, in the opening round, Ozge Yilmaz had beaten Daria Trigolos of Belarus, the no.4 seed (9-11, 11-4, 12-10, 11-8, 8-11, 13-11).
“It was our first encounter and I am very happy with the level of the game I produced. I kept Andreea close to the table by playing short, I was better in the backhand exchange of the rallies.”, Natalia Bajor after beating Andreea Dragoman
At the semi-final stage Mariia Tailakova plays Anastasia Kolish, Natalia Bajor opposes Valeria Shcherbatykh; proceedings conclude in Minsk on Sunday 11th March.