by Ian Marshall, Editor
Against Austria he had lost closely to Robert Gardos in the second match of the fixture (11-7, 9-11, 11-3, 5-11, 11-8), a fine effort considering the experience gap; Dimitrije Levajac is 18 years old, Robert Gardos, celebrated his 41st birthday earlier this month on Thursday 16th January.
Surely the teenager had risen to the occasion, it was a brave effort; later in the vital fifth and deciding match of the fixture, he more than rose the occasion, he beat Stefan Fegerl in a nail-biting duel (12-10, 1-11, 10-12, 11-8, 11-9) to secure his team a second round place.
Once again when facing Hong Kong China, the tried and trusted pairing of Marko Jevtovic and Zsolt Peto, both 32 years of age, formed the doubles combination. Understandable, they have been partners on the international scene ever since the 2004 World Junior Championships in Kobe. Moreover, earlier this year they were runners up on home soil in Belgrade at the ITTF Challenge Series Serbian Open.
However, against Hong Kong China, they did not give Serbia the start required; they lost to the equally tried and trusted combination of Ho Kwan Kit and Wong Chun Ting (11-4, 11-5, 8-11, 13-11).
Enter centre stage Dimitrije Levajac. Most impressively, he beat Ho Kwan Kit in four games (11-6, 9-11, 11-1, 8-11, 11-6), before Lam Siu Hang levelled matters by overcoming Zsolt Peto (10-12, 11-8, 9-11, 11-6, 11-4).
The fixture level, Dimitrije Levajac faced Wong Chun Ting, ten years his senior and with an ITTF World Tour title to his name, he won in 2015 in the Czech Republic. Listed at no.19 on the current world rankings, as opposed to his adversary named at no.397, a career high of no.388 last December, Wong Chun Ting was odds on favourite.
Cometh the hour, cometh the bespectacled Dimitrije Levajac. The contest went the full distance. In the fifth game at the change of ends Dimitrije Levajac established a 5-2 lead; Wong Chun Ting called “time out”, the break appeared to pay dividends, he levelled at 5-all.
Surely now the Hong Kong China pen-holder would press the accelerator and soar to victory; it was to be the reverse, Dimitrije Levajac won the next four points, he lost the next but at 10-6 held four match points, he needed just one. He sank to his knees to be immediately engulfed by his colleagues in unbridled celebration.
Dimitrije Levajac had proved himself a fighter, a man for the occasion; crucially he was positive, adept in the modern day banana return of service, forearm approaching the vertical, wrist relaxed and racket circumnavigating the ball.
He seized every opportunity to take the initiative, if the serve drifted long he moved quickly to execute a forehand top spin attack.
Totally different level
The performance in Gondomar has been simply stunning and totally out of character with his 2019 performances.
He competed on the ITTF World Tour in Hungary, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, on each occasion he lost in the opening preliminary round; that is the round of 256!
At ITTF Challenge Series tournaments, he appeared in both Serbia and Slovenia in the men’s singles and under 21 men’s singles event; on each occasion in each event he experienced an opening round exit.
Equally on the ITTF World Junior Circuit, three excursions, he experienced third round exits in the Czech Republic and Italy, a quarter-final farewell in Belgium.
Faith in youth
Quite remarkable; many teams in Gondomar have put their faith in experience and suffered defeats, notably Belarus in Vladimir Samsonov, Nigeria in Segun Toriola.
Could Serbia not have done the same and selected 44 year old Aleksandat Karakasevic? They trusted youth, it paid dividends.