by Simon Daish
Earlier than anticipated departures for Puerto Rico’s Angel Naranjo and Belgium’s Louis Laffineur blew the title race wide open, ready for an ambitious outsider to capitalise. Step forward Iulian Chirita!
Negotiating his two remaining group fixtures against Portugal’s Francisco Ferreira and Spain’s Francesc Carrera in straight games, Chirita, ranked 22nd on the ITTF Table Tennis Youth Ranking list, then went on to see off Israel’s Uri Almor across four games (9-11, 12-10, 11-4, 11-5), before defeating Czech Republic’s Simon Belik by the same margin in the semi-finals (11-6, 6-11, 11-9, 11-3).
Chirita’s crowning victory came against a familiar face with Eduard Ionescu standing opposite in an all-Romanian final. Ranked 11 positions higher in the world, Ionescu was the slight favourite heading into the match but Chirita wasn’t fazed by the challenge, coming out on top 3-1 (11-7, 9-11, 11-6, 11-9) to take the plaudits.
“It feels really good to be the winner after so many matches, I’m so excited to win my first competition and I hope is not the last. This WTT Youth Contender is a very nice competition, well organised and I’m really enjoying it.” Iulian Chirita
The day also proved momentous for the host nation as Portugal’s very own Tiago Abiodun put his name up in lights in the Under-13 Boys’ Singles event.
At the final hurdle, Abiodun, ranked 26th in the world for his age, accounted for Germany’s Noah Hersel needing just three of the five games on offer to lift the trophy (12-10, 11-5, 13-11).
“I feel good that I’ve just won the first final of the WTT Youth Contender, it makes me happy and I take this opportunity to acknowledge my coaches who believe in me and make me want more.” Tiago Abiodun.
Earlier in the day, Abiodun showed great character to stage a commendable comeback display in his quarterfinal meeting with Puerto Rico’s Steven Joel Moreno Rivera (11-5, 9-11, 9-11, 11-8, 11-5), taking down another Puerto Rican in Enrique Yezue Rios Torres (5-11, 11-7, 12-10, 11-5).
Over in the Under-19 Boys’ Singles race the attention was firmly fixed on the group phase, which, for the most part, panned out well for the higher ranked competitors in action.
However, Spain’s Marc Gutierrez emerged as the biggest casualty: occupying 69th in the Youth Ranking, Gutierrez was on the receiving end of a cruel defeat to German counterpart Tom Schweiger (10-12, 13-11, 8-11, 11-8, 12-10). The result proved a decisive outcome as Schweiger, currently unranked, advanced against the odds with a second place finish in the group, while Gutierrez was condemned to third.
For more information and to watch the live match l coverage, please visit worldtabletennis.com
About World Table Tennis
Successfully launched in 2021, WTT heralds a new era for professional table tennis with the new WTT Series showcasing the sport’s best and up-and-coming table tennis players in up to 34 events around the world. The WTT Series features four Grand Smashes as the pillars of the support, eight single-table, single-gender WTT Champions events, the WTT Contender Series and the season-ending WTT Cup Finals, all of which will entertain fans and inspire future generations of table tennis players. Complemented by the global WTT Youth Series, WTT creates a pathway that showcases the journey of a player from day one to World No. 1 through the ITTF Table Tennis World Rankings. For more information, please visit worldtabletennis.com.