by Simon Daish
Catching the eye earlier in the day with her Round of 16 comeback win over Chile’s Daniela Ortega, but it was Fonseca Carrazana who was on the receiving end of a remarkable response in the closing stages of day two.
Trailing the no.15 seed 1-3, Diaz crucially came out on top in a 26 point fifth game to set the recovery effort in motion. Finding another level to her performance, Diaz dropped a total of just nine points over the final two games to turn the match in her favour.
“I’m super happy, this has been my dream since I started playing so. Thank you very much to all who have always been there accompanying us, I dedicate this to my dear Puerto Rico.” Melanie Diaz
Success for top seed Diaz, and there was equally good news for the no.2 seed in the women’s singles draw with Chile’s Paulina Vega taking home the other ticket on offer.
Meeting three-time Olympic Games qualifier Yadira Silva in the all-important play-off, Vega edged a tight opening game against the no.5 seed from Mexico, and before long her early boost in momentum developed into a devastating three-game lead! The warrior in Silva refused to give up the fight and the Mexican did well to narrow the deficit to a single game, but there was to be no successful comeback on this occasion (13-11, 11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 12-14, 11-6).
Horacio Cifuentes provided the host nation with something to celebrate, qualifying for his first Olympic Games!
Seeded second and amongst the favourites to qualify in Rosario, 23-year-old Cifuentes claims his passage to Tokyo off the back of a 4-1 win over Dominican Republic’s Wu Jiaji (11-7, 11-5, 13-11, 7-11, 11-6). Cifuentes established control early on in the tie and rarely looked troubled, displaying maturity well beyond his years – very encouraging signs indeed for the future of Argentine table tennis.
“There are no words. It is a unique feeling, I have never felt something like this in sport. I lost my friend in January and it has not been easy to face the loss of him from Europe. Thanks to my parents who are always behind everything, to my coaches, I have no words to explain how it feels to achieve this. I am going to deliver all of myself in Tokyo, we are already there.” Horacio Cifuentes
A man very much in the spotlight for his standout results in the lead-up to the qualification match, but it was frustration for Cuba’s Jorge Campos after narrowly missing out to Puerto Rico’s Brian Afanador across seven games (9-11, 11-4, 11-4, 9-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-9).
The faster player out of the blocks, Campos remained in the hunt right down to the final point. However, the no.13 seed couldn’t avoid defeat to the fifth seed this time out and will have to go again in the second knock-out stage. As for Afanador, it is mission accomplished with his place in Tokyo assured.
Defeat for four players, the quartet will have another opportunity to qualify with their names entered into another knock-out tournament but now there is no more margin for error!