by Ian Marshall, Editor
Arguably for Niu Guankai it was a step up the ladder, in both 2016 and 2017 he had won the cadet boys’ singles title at the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships, in 2018 he had been the junior boys’ singles runner up. However, the win in Varazdin was his first ITTF World Junior Circuit junior boys’ singles title.
Somewhat differently for Kuai Man in the junior girls’ singles event, it was her second such success; earlier this year she had prevailed in Thailand.
However, similar to Niu Guankai, she had enjoyed notable success at the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships; last year she won the cadet girls’ singles event having been the runner up in 2017.
In Varazdin, Niu Guankai, required to qualify, accounted for colleague, Chen Yuanyu, the no.15 seed (11-8, 13-11, 11-8, 11-9) in the final, having earlier in round three ousted Hungary’s Csaba Andras, the no.4 seed (11-1, 11-5, 11-7, 11-6).
Impressive against Csaba Andras, it was no different as he advanced to the title decider. He overcame Chinese Taipei’s Tai Ming-Wei, the no.9 seed (11-8, 14-12, 8-11, 11-3, 11-6) and colleague, Quan Kaiyuan (9-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6, 11-5) to reach the penultimate round where he ousted compatriot Liang Guodong (11-13, 11-7, 12-10, 11-7, 6-11, 11-1), a player also in form. In the third round he had beaten India’s Manush Utpalbhai Shah, the no.2 seed (11-6, 6-11, 9-11, 12-10, 4-11, 12-10, 12-10).
An early exit for the second seed, it was the same for Poland’s Samuel Kulczycki, the top seed and for Russia’s Maksim Grebnev, the no.3 seed. Samuel Kulczycki was beaten in round four by China’s Lin Shidong (11-7, 11-8, 11-9, 11-8); Maksim Grebnev suffered in the same round when facing Chen Yuanyu (11-4, 11-9, 11-7, 11-7).
Alas for Lin Shidong the euphoria was short lived; at the quarter-final stage he lost to Chinese Taipei’s Feng Yi-Hsin (13-11, 11-8, 13-11, 7-11, 4-11, 11-6), who in turn experienced a semi-final defeat at the hands of Chen Yuanyu (11-7, 11-6, 2-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-9). One round earlier at the quarter-final stage Chen Yuanyu had overcome colleague Yang Qulong (11-5, 11-6, 11-9, 12-10).
Hard fought success for Niu Guankai, it was even harder for Kuai Man; the no.10 seed. She secured the title at the hands of teammate Chen Yi, emerging victorious by the very narrowest of decisions in a quite dramatic final (11-2, 11-9, 6-11, 11-9, 8-11, 10-12, 14-12). Success by the very narrowest of margins for Kuai Man, en route the final life was less demanding; in the third round she had beaten Italy’s Jamila Laurenti, the top seed (11-7, 11-6, 11-9, 11-8), prior to ousting colleagues Leng Yutong (14-12, 11-2, 11-5, 6-11, 11-7) and Yuan Yuan, the no.6 seed (11-1, 11-8, 11-5, 11-5).
Imposingly at the quarter-final stage Yuan Yuan had accounted for Darya Kisel of Belarus, the no.13 seed (11-8, 9-11, 11-2, 11-8, 11-7) and surprise third round winner in opposition to India’s Swastika Ghosh, the no.4 seed (5-11, 11-7, 10-12, 9-11, 11-7, 11-2, 11-7).
Most authoritative from Kuai Man, the journey to the final was somewhat more exacting for Chen Yi; at the quarter-final stage she beat Germany’s Sophia Klee, the no.11 seed (11-2, 11-7, 11-6, 11-4) and Prithika Pavade of France, the no.2 seed (11-3, 11-9, 11-5, 11-5), prior to overcoming colleague, Zang Xiaotong, the no.3 seed, in a full distance contest (7-11, 7-11, 15-13, 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 11-5).
Disappointment for Zang Xiaotong but in the junior girls’ doubles it was success; partnering Wu Yangchen, the top seeds, they overcame the French pairing of Camille Lutz and Prithika Pavade, the no.2 seeds in a contest decided by the minimal two point margin in a tension packed fifth game (10-12, 11-6, 11-6, 7-11, 16-14). At the semi-final stage Wu Yangchen and Zang Xiaotong had beaten Japan’s Misa Inayoshi and Haruna Sugita (11-9, 11-7, 11-4); Camille Lutz and Prithika Pavade had ousted Chen Yi and Kuai Man, the no.4 seeds (11-8, 11-9, 5-11, 11-2).
Gold for the top seeds; in the junior boys’ doubles event, it was gold for the no.20 seeds. After accounting for Italy’s Tommaso Giovanetti and John Oyebode, the no.17 seeds (13-11, 11-13, 11-6, 11-6), Cao Yantao and Liang Guodong beat Chinese Taipei’s Feng Yi-Hsin and Li Hsin-Yu, the no.8 seeds (12-10, 12-10, 8-11, 11-9) to seal the title. In the counterpart semi-final, Feng Yi-Hsin and Li Hsin-Yu had ended the hopes of China’s Quan Kaiyuan and Xiong Mengyang, the no.10 seeds (11-6, 12-14, 11-8, 7-11, 11-5).
Play now continues with the team events in both the junior and cadet age group categories.