by Ian Marshall, Editor
In the past six decades and more, when in female events Asian players have met European adversaries, time and again Asia has prevailed. At the semi-final stage of the girls’ team event in Wladyslawowo, the old continent turned the tables, Europe recorded a 3-2 win. The architect of the victory was Hana Arapovic.
She beat Japan’s Kaho Akae in the second match of the engagement (11-8, 6-11, 11-7, 11-7) and then in the vital fifth and deciding contest she accounted for Korea Republic’s Lee Yeonhui, in a tension packed five games encounter to seal the victory (13-15, 11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 11-4).
Both wins were most creditable, the latter because of the pressure situation, the former because Kaho Akae is one of the favourites for the girls’ singles title. Earlier this year in the first week of September she reached the final of the cadet girls’ singles event at the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships in Ulaanbaator, losing in a hard fought final to China’s Chen Yi.
“It was a surprise for me to beat Kaho Akae; I think today I had good tactics, I tried to play wide to create angles and then play to the middle. She plays very fast, coping with her speed was a problem but she had problems returning my services which enabled me to play my game.” Hana Arapovic
Born and resident in Zagreb, coached by her father Darko, Hana Arapovic started to play table tennis when just over six years old; a familiar face on the ITTF World Junior Circuit, she is currently listed at no.9 on the under 15 girls’ world rankings, one of her most notable performances being a cadet girls’ singles semi-final finish this year at the Hang Seng 2019 Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open.
“I try to be safe with my play, be consistent, I think my backhand is my strength; of course most important you must be prepared to fight. Here, the three days training camp was valuable and we have developed a good team spirit.” Hana Arapovic
Impressive and one person who was impressed with efforts of Hana Arapovic was Hungary’s Csilla Batorfi, in Wladyslawowo the coach on duty for the European team, in her playing days one of the best.
She is the only female player to have competed in the first six editions of the Olympic Games, commencing in 1988 in Seoul when table tennis was first included in the multi-sport spectacular. Moreover, amongst her many successes she won the women’s singles title at the 1986 European Championships in Prague, a direct result being that she was named Hungarian Sportswoman of The Year.
“Hana varied her serves well; that was vital when we played against Asia, it was the most important factor. She has fast hands, her first top spin stroke is very good. Also, she is very focused, good concentration; she is not like some other Croatian players, she does not show a great deal of emotion.” Csilla Batorfi
A crucial role played in the penultimate round against Asia, in the final, Hana Arapova was also pivotal to European success; in a 3-0 success against the hopes team, in the second match of the fixture she overcame Ireland’s Sophie Earley (9-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-5).