by Simon Daish
Four titles were to be determined on the second day of play at WTT Youth Star Contender Tunis 2021, one of which was awarded to Germany’s Kay Stumper following his heroics in the Under-19 Boys’ Singles event.
Stumper, ranked 16th in the ITTF Table Tennis Youth Rankings, set the bar high from the start, with resounding victories over Portugal’s Tiago Li (14-12, 11-9, 11-4) and Slovakia’s Adam Klajber (11-8, 11-6, 11-5). However, Stumper will remember his two later performances with greater satisfaction.
Facing the player ranked three positions higher in the world and a major rival in the title race, Stumper was pushed all the way by Ivor Ban but ultimately held the upper hand over the Croatian with a courageous display (4-11, 11-9, 11-8, 4-11, 11-5). Then, when it mattered most, Stumper chalked up his seventh win of the draw, seeing off Belgium’s Adrien Rassenfosse, ranked 15th, across four games (11-6, 12-10, 10-12, 11-7) to announce himself as Under-19 champion.
“This (win) means a lot for me. It is the first time I won a WTT Youth series event and I’m really happy. The first match was the most difficult. But after that, I gained much more confidence and in those crucial moments, I made the right decisions in my strategy.
“I’m impressed with the show courts here and it’s good there was live streaming on two tables for all the match days.” Kay Stumper
A proud occasion for Germany but it was Russia that proved the most successful nation of the day, claiming the three remaining titles up for grabs.
World number 44 Ilia Koniukhov carried the Russian flag all the way to the Under-15 Boys’ Singles final, battling past higher-ranked opposition in all three of his knock-out stage encounters. The first player to make way for Koniukhov was Slovakia’s Kristian Uherik (11-5, 11-4, 11-9), world ranked 20th in the age bracket, with India’s Preyesh Suresh Raj (11-9, 11-8, 10-12, 11-4), ranked 7th, and Czech Republic’s Stepan Brhel (11-8, 10-12, 11-9, 11-5), world number 21, also experiencing defeat at the hands of the Russian.
Three excellent results against higher-ranked players enabled Koniukhov to round off his campaign in style, coming out on top against Nigeria’s Usman Ishola Okanlawon, ranked 52nd, with an emphatic display (11-8, 11-8, 11-9).
“I’ve not been playing international events for such a long time and I’m glad I had the opportunity to show the world my potential. This is first time that I’ve played in such big show court and it has been an amazing experience.” Ilia Koniukhov
Title success for Koniukhov and it wasn’t his first of the day, having already celebrated victory in the Under-15 Boys’ Doubles event alongside compatriot Roman Vinogradov. Taking on Sweden’s David Bjorkryd and Elias Sjogren at the final hurdle, the Russian pair demonstrated their steel-like composure, recovering from an early deficit on their way to a dramatic 3-2 win (8-11, 11-9, 11-5, 3-11, 11-5).
Russia earnt the plaudits again soon after with Maksim Grebnev and Vladimir Sidorenko lighting up the Under-19 Boys’ Doubles final, overcoming Slovakia’s Filip Delincak and Adam Klajber with little difficulty (11-3, 11-5, 11-5). Grebnev and Sidorenko proved untouchable throughout the tournament, coming away from the action without so much as a scratch!
With the Boys’ events drawing to a close, the attention now shifts to the Girls’ Singles and Doubles categories that get underway on Saturday.
Keep up to date with all the action on www.worldtabletennis.com