by Olalekan Okusan, ITTF-Africa Press Officer
The draw for the tournament concluded, the 17 year old knew she was in for a big task, knowing full well that her potential second round match would be against no.1 seed, Sabina Surjan of Serbia.
After beating Algeria’s Malissa Nasri in her opening encounter (12-10, 11-3, 11-5, 8-11, 11-3), she faced Sabina Surjan. She trailed by three games to one, before to the amazement of the fans in the Rodes Omni-Sports Hall, fought back to secure the next two games and the seventh by the very narrowest of margins (7-11, 11-12, 11-4, 9-11, 11-3, 13-11, 11-9).
A dramatic victory, Tatiana Kukulkova was now a different person; ever more confident she beat Croatia’s Andrea Pavlovic, the no.3 seed (11-6, 11-6, 10-12, 8-11, 11-5, 11-8), before overcoming Italy’s Jamila Laurenti, the no.5 seed (11-9, 11-9, 11-6, 11-6) to reserve her invitation for Buenos Aires.
“I am so happy because this is a big achievement for Slovakian table tennis and myself. It was a difficult journey for me particularly against Sabina Surjan, who is one of the best players in Europe. The match against Sabina was very tactical and physical, so I was so happy when I won the match against her; this really gave me a lot of confidence going into the semi-final against Croatia’s Andrea Pavlovic.” Tatiana Kukulkova
A long journey and for Tatiana Kukulkova most worthwhile, the goal was achieved.
“I think the journey was worth it because I achieved my dream. I just wanted to cry because I did not really prepare very well after competing at the Polish Open; being the first Slovak to qualify for the table tennis events at the Youth Olympic Games, I am so excited and I am really looking forward to heading to Argentina later in the year.” Tatiana Kukulkova
In the opposite half of the draw in the latter stages, Jamila Laurenti had caused a major second round upset by beating India’s Archana Girish Kamath, the no.2 seed (11-6, 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-8), prior to overcoming Turkey’s Ozge Yilmaz, the no.15 seed (10-12, 7-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-7, 5-11, 11-7), a player in form. At the quarter-final stage, she had accounted for Finland’s Annika Lundström, the no.4 seed (9-11, 11-8, 11-7, 8-11, 12-10, 13-11).
A place in the semi-final booked, Jamila Laurenti accounted for Singapore’s Zhang Wanling, the no.11 seed (11-5, 11-5, 5-11, 13-11, 11-7).
Now attention turns to Sunday 25th March for the second qualification tournament.
Continental Tournaments – Qualifiers (as on Sunday 17th December)
Africa: Youssef Abdel Aziz (Egypt), Nathael Hamdoun (Tunisia)
Asia: Tomokazu Harimoto (Japan), Lin Yun-Ju (Chinese Taipei), Wang Chuqin (China), Cho Daeseong (Korea)
Europe: Ioannis Sgouropoulos (Greece), Vladimir Sidorenko (Russia), Medardas Stankievicius (Lithuania), Vladislav Urdu (Moldova)
Latin America: Nicolas Burgos (Chile), Guillerme Teodoro (Brazil)
North America: Kanak Jha (United States)
Oceania: Nathan Xu (New Zealand)
Africa: Esther Oribamise (Nigeria), Marwa Alhodaby (Egypt)
Asia: Miu Hirano (Japan), Sun Yingsha (China), Jinnipa Sawettabut (Thailand), Su Pei-Ling (Chinese Taipei)
Europe: Lucie Gauthier (France), Mariia Tailakova (Russia), Ning Jing (Azerbaijan), Nadezhda Bogdanova (Belarus)
Latin America: Adriana Diaz (Puerto Rico), Bruna Takahashi (Brazil)
North America: Amy Wang (United States)
Oceania: Vong Hui Ling (New Zealand)
Road to Buenos Series (as on Saturday 24th March)
Europe: Bastian Rembert (France), Cristian Pletea (Romania
Europe: Andreea Dragoman (Romania), Lee Ka Yee (Hong Kong)
Africa: Tatiana Kukulkova (Slovakia)