by Simon Daish
The hosts made a perfect start to the tie with Andreea Dragoman requiring just three games to see off Tijana Jokic in the opening match (11-4, 11-8, 11-7) but Serbia hit back straight away through Sabina Surjan, who prevailed in her encounter with Tania Plaian across four games (11-9, 11-9, 6-11, 11-8).
Andreea Hudusan’s registered a vital comeback win in the third fixture of the tie, recovering from a two games to one deficit to beat Andjela Menger (10-12, 11-7, 6-11, 11-5, 11-9). Once again Serbia responded with a Sabina Surjan victory, but Tania Plaian’s four games win over Tijana Jokic (5-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-5) sealed the host nation’s spot in the penultimate round.
Ning Jing led by example on the morning of day four as Azerbaijan overcame quarter-finals opponents Germany 3-1. Claiming two victories to her name, Ning Jing beat Anastasia Bondareva (11-2, 11-8, 16-14) and Franziska Schreiner (9-11, 11-9, 11-9, 11-7) with Azerbaijan’s other win coming via Chen Xingtai, who also accounted for Schreiner (11-4, 9-11, 11-9, 11-5).
The team standing between Azerbaijan and a spot in the final is France, who recovered from an early setback to negotiate the Slovak Republic: Tatiana Kukulkova contributed the only success of the match for the Slovak outfit, inflicting a straight games defeat upon Leili Mostafavi. However, Mostafavi, Lucie Gauthier and Isa Cok emerged triumphant in the remaining fixtures to send France through to the semi-finals.
Starting off the tournament in “Level Two”, Poland’s run to the quarter-finals is an achievement in itself but that was as far as the campaign would take them. The Polish side lost out to last year’s winners Russia in the last eight, thanks in part to a brace from Mariia Tailakova.