by Simon Daish
Early signs of encouragement
Tomislav Pucar burst onto the scene at the 2013 European Youth Championships in Ostrava, taking home men’s singles silver in the Czech city and one year later at the same event in Riva del Garda the Croatian added mixed doubles gold in partnership with Lea Rakovac.
Impressing all the right people in all the right places, Pucar earned the opportunity to represent his country at the 2014 European Team Championships and enjoyed a debut to remember as Croatia secured a bronze medal finish in Lisbon.
However, perhaps the big moment that really started to turn heads came at the 2017 European Under 21 Championships which saw the Croatian beat Germany’s Qiu Dang to lift the men’s singles trophy in Sochi.
Pucar’s potential was clear for all to see from a young age and, if 2019 alone is anything to go by, he is now beginning to realise that potential at senior level.
A year to remember
At the start of the year Pucar occupied 70th in the men’s world rankings list, a position he went on to hold for three consecutive months. Since then the Croatian has flown up the ladder and now sits at a personal best rank of 32nd and a place in the top 30 is surely on the horizon.
It was the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in April where Pucar began to make his mark, battling past a trio of highly renowned players: Germany’s Bastian Steger was the first to fall at Pucar’s hands before India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta suffered the same fate. Then came the biggest upset of them all as Pucar produced a breathtaking display to see off former World no.1 Dimitrij Ovtcharov 4-3 to secure a top 16 finish in Budapest.
Was it was just a one-off? No, it was not! Pucar demonstrated his abilities again at the 2019 European Games in Minsk. Seeded 12th for the men’s singles draw Pucar fought gallantly in the Belarusian city, beating Ukraine’s Kou Lei in the bronze medal contest to reserve his spot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Standing in the presence of giants
Pucar has shown a spectacular level of improvement in a short space of time and is beginning to cause a stir in Europe for all the right reasons.
Some of the biggest names in world table tennis have fallen to the Croatian at two very prestigious events in the Liebherr 2019 World Championships and 2019 European Games. However, Pucar now has the difficult task of carrying his positive form forward throughout the remainder of the year, not to mention the years ahead.
Over the years Croatia has often turned to Andrej Gacina to lead the line on the world stage, but as of this moment in time it is Tomislav Pucar who is the country’s leading name in the men’s world rankings list. The 23-year-old certainly has the potential to go on and hit even greater heights in the future and further establish himself as one of the European continent’s elite players.