by Simon Daish
Just 14 years of age, Welsh star Hursey booked her date with destiny off the back of a mesmerising final against the highest ranked player in the Under-17 Girls’ Singles draw, Elena Zaharia, ranked 10th in the ITTF Table Tennis Youth Ranking.
Trailing by two games, Romania’s Zaharia did well to force a decider, before going on to hold two match points. However, a determined Hursey, who is ranked 15 places below Zaharia in the ITTF Table Tennis Youth Ranking, kept her cool and claimed the next four points in a row to seal an unforgettable win (11-8, 11-8, 7-11, 8-11, 12-10).
“I’m very happy that I won. I was super nervous. But I tried and managed not to show that. There were many upsets in this competition as a lot of high-level players and high seeded ones went out quite early. I had a very though match against Mia Griesel at the semi-finals but I managed to go through that.” Anna Hursey.
The other player to come away with title honours on the penultimate day in Vila Real was Josephina Neumann with success in the Under-13 category.
Proving too strong for the host nation’s Joana Pinto in the quarter-finals (11-5, 11-3, 11-3), Neumann then recovered from a 1-2 deficit to beat Spain’s Maria Berzosa in a 3-2 thriller (9-11, 11-8, 10-12, 12-10, 12-10). Neumann’s biggest scalp, however, arrived in the final, toppling fellow compatriot Faustyna Stefanska with another commanding display (11-2, 11-7, 11-8).
“I´m very happy and very proud to have won this tournament. It was harder to play against a teammate because we know each other’s game and we warm up together before every game. It’s even harder to find a good strategy to beat her.”
“I’ve got a lot of motivation and self-confidence now and I’ll keep fighting to win future games and tournaments.” Josephina Neumann.
Over in the hunt for Under-19 knock-out qualification, Puerto Rico will have two representatives in the main draw. Fabiola Diaz enjoyed back-to-back successes in her fixtures against Romania’s Ioana Singeorzan (11-6, 6-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-7) and Spain’s Angela Rodriguez (11-7, 8-11, 11-7, 11-6) to top her group. Meanwhile, Alondra Rodriguez earnt an impressive comeback win over Julie Van Hauwaert (6-11, 5-11, 11-3, 11-7, 11-8) to send the Belgian home.
Germany’s Sophia Klee, ranked 22nd in the Youth Rankings, nearly made headlines for the wrong reasons, narrowly squeezing through to the round of 32 with her 3-2 victory over Belgium’s Sara Devos (11-7, 6-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-8), having lost her opening encounter to Belarusian counterpart Vera Volkava, ranked 273 positions lower, by the same margin.
Sena Smailji is out of the Under-15 picture, following a winless group stage performance. The Croatian’s campaign opened with a painful five-game defeat to Hungary’s Nora Polonyi (9-11, 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 11-7), and Smailji’s exit was confirmed soon after with Portugal’s Mariana Santa Comba also prevailing in their head-to-head (11-6, 9-11, 11-6, 11-7).
Two titles decided, join us again on Monday for the final day of action at WTT Youth Contender Vila Real which will see the crowning of the Under-15 and Under-19 champions.
For more information and live match 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