23 Mar 2019

Present one month ago at the Czech Junior and Cadet Open, the host nation's Nicole Arlia and Slovakia’s Natalia Divinska, making her first appearance of the year on the ITTF World Junior Circuit, were very much the players to attract the attention on the opening day of play, Wednesday 20th March, in the initial stage of the junior girls’ singles event at the 2019 Italian Junior and Cadet Open in Lignano.

Contrary to expectations both remained unbeaten to finish in first places in their respective groups and thus advanced to join the 16 seeds who received direct entry in the main draw.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Both made the best possible confidence building start to their campaigns by beating the highest rated player in their respective groups. Nicole Arlia accounted for Slovenia’s Lea Paulin (3-11, 11-8, 11-13, 11-8, 11-7), in a similarly hard fought contest Natalia Divinska overcame Croatia’s Marta Vukelic (7-11, 11-7, 11-9, 7-11, 14-12).

Success in their opening engagements, Natalia Arlia secured first place in the group by defeating Zara Ilic, like Marta Vukelic from Croatia (12-10, 11-4, 14-12); similarly Natalia Divinska overcame Romania’s Ana Cristina Barbu (11-4, 4-11, 11-9, 10-12, 11-7). Meanwhile, second place and thus progress to the main draw was the lot of Lea Paulin and Mata Vukelic; in her opening match of the day Lea Paulin had beaten Zara Ilic (11-9, 11-4, 11-8), in her second contest Marta Vukelic accounted for Ana Cristina Barbu (11-6, 9-11, 11-7, 11-8).

Flying the flag for Italy, Nicole Arlia (Photo: Ion Nechita)


Runners up spots for Lea Paulin and Marta Vukelic; for the three higher rated players on first phase duty it was top spot. Like Natalia Arlia from Italy, Gaia Monfardini, Portugal’s Celia Silva and Singapore’s Zhou Jingyi all ended the unbeaten and thus main draw were places reserved.

However, there was no shortage of surprise first places. Contrary to predictions, Romania’s Denise Uritu and Luciana Mitrofan finished in first positions in their respective groups as did the Slovenia duo of Tara Kobitec and Tjasa Novak. Likewise, Lithuania’s Emilija Riliskyte and Auguste Melaikaite upset the odds to secure first places as did Anna Hursey of Wales and Jukie Mitrofan of France.

Surprises but most notably, as expected, China’s Kuai Man, topped her group and is very much a challenger for honours, a fact she proved in the junior girls’ doubles event. Partnering colleague Wu Yangchen the duo progressed to the final where they meet colleagues Chen Yi and Wang Tianyi.

The junior girls’ singles and junior girls’ doubles events will be played to a conclusion on Thursday 21st March.

World Junior Circuit 2019 Italian Junior & Cadet Open Nicole Arlia Natalia Divinska

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Day 5 - 2019 ITTF Italy Junior & Cadet Open