by Simon Daish
A young man who wasn’t in the mood for sharing the spotlight in the Under-19 Boys’ Singles tournament, Movileanu, ranked 51st in the ITTF Table Tennis Youth Ranking, toppled some of the biggest names on duty in the Portuguese city.
Starting his day with a commanding straight games win over Slovakia’s Filip Delincak (11-5, 11-6, 11-8), a very different performance was required in Movileanu’s round of 16 meeting with Hungary’s Csaba Andras, displaying nerves of steel to hold off a late comeback push from the highest ranked player in the race (11-8, 11-8, 12-14, 8-11, 11-6).
Movileanu then produced a recovery effort of his own to negotiate Puerto Rico’s Angel Naranjo in the quarterfinals (6-11, 6-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-5), only to require the full match distance again in the last four with Germany’s Kay Stumper falling victim (8-11, 11-5, 6-11, 11-2, 14-12). Compatriot Andrei Teodor Istrate was the final player standing between Movileanu and Under-19 success – another tight affair but there could only be one winner, and on this occasion, it was Movileanu (11-7, 11-9, 4-11, 11-9).
“It was a very difficult tournament as we didn’t play any international competitions for more than a year. I managed to beat one of my teammates in the final and to win against some very talented players in the previous rounds. We currently have a great senior team and we’re starting to build the future national team. All of us are great players, everyone works hard and is very talented.” Darius Movileanu
Crowned Under-17 Boys’ Singles champion the previous day, Iulian Chirita leaves Vila Real with a second title to his name after emerging top of the tree in the Under-15 Boys’ Singles event.
Receiving a bye in the opening round of the main draw, Chirita, ranked fourth in the Under-15 Youth Ranking list, was forced to dig deep in his round of 16 encounter, fighting back from behind to beat Israel’s Itay Avivi 3-2 (11-7, 9-11, 9-11, 11-3, 11-8).
Chirita’s two following matches proved more straightforward, cruising past Hungary’s Balazs Lei (11-8, 11-3, 11-4) and Slovakia’s Samuel Arpas (11-3, 11-4, 11-7) to set up another all-Romanian final with Dragos Alexandru Bujor successfully negotiating the other half of the draw.
Reaching the final hurdle was no mean feat for Bujor, who caught the eye after ousting Spain’s Daniel Berzosa, the second highest ranked player in the draw, in their semi-final contest (10-12, 11-7, 11-4, 11-8). Another brave performance in the title match, but Bujor would ultimately fall short with Chirita racking up his third 3-0 win in a row (11-8, 12-10, 11-9) to finish his campaign in style.
“I’m very happy after this tournament because I have reached both finals and I’ve won not one, but the two events. It’s an amazing feeling! I want to play in more tournaments from this series, hopefully reach the finals and win. I want to continue to surprise everyone in table tennis.” Iulian Chirita.
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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