by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
The performance in Riva del Garda excelled expectations, one wondered if the young man who shares his birthday with China’s Zhang Jike, could maintain the form in the New Year; the answer came very quickly.
He won the Junior Boys’ Singles title at the Swedish Junior and Cadet Open and thus became the first player from the host nation to achieve the feat since the event joined the ITTF World Junior Circuit. More recently he was on duty at the Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships in Halmstad, notably recovering from a two games to nil deficit to emerge victorious in opposition to Khalid Assar, when in the group stage, Sweden faced Egypt.
Fine performances and somewhat ahead of the field in Platja d’Aro; next on the list is Chile’s Nicolas Burgos. Notably one year ago in early May, Nicolas Burgos emerged successful at the Latin American Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games qualification tournament but this year has not yet realised great success; his best is reaching the second round in the Czech Republic.
It is very much the same for the major challengers in Platja d’Aro. Russia’s Lev Katsman and Maksim Grebnev are both amongst the leading names; the former is the no.3 seed, the latter the no.8 seed. The best so far this year for Lev Katsman is quarter-final finish in Italy, for Maksim Grebnev, the fourth round in both Italy and Sweden.
A podium finish elusive, it is no different for the remaining prominent names in the Junior Boys’ Singles event in Platja d’Aro.
The highest finish this year for Germany’s Kay Stumper, the no.4 seed, is the third round in Italy, for Argentina’s Martin Bentancor, the quarter-finals in Paraguay.
Meanwhile, for the next two names on the list, Portugal’s José Pedro Francisco and Lithuania’s Medardas Stankievicius, neither has yet reached the quarter-final stage. The most productive for José Pedro Francisco is the second round in Tunisia, for Medardas Stankievicius, the fourth round in the Czech Republic.