08 Jun 2021

Helena Sommerova was the talk of the town on day one at WTT Youth Contender Havirov after leading the Czech Republic to the Under-17 Girls’ Singles quarter-finals on home soil.

by Simon Daish

Local hero Sommerova ranked 53rd in the ITTF Youth Rankings, made her intentions known early as she came through her opening three matches unscathed. Rounding off her day in style, Sommerova stunned Romania’s Ioana Singeorzan 3-2 (11-9, 11-6, 8-11, 8-11, 11-7), ranked 28th, to set up a quarter-final encounter with Italy’s Nicole Arlia.

“I am very happy that the tournament is here in my country. There are many Czech players, so I felt like there were fans. On top of that, I have played in this hall before. Big halls are the same all over the world, but this one in Havirov is special. I didn´t expect to progress to the quarter-finals, so now I just want to enjoy it.” Helena Sommerova

Another player who turned heads on the opening day in Havirov was Ukraine’s Veronika Matiunina. Ranked 124th, Matiunina powered through her group before claiming consecutive victories over France’s Agathe Anne Avezou (6-11, 12-10, 11-8, 11-8) and Lucie Mobarek (11-7, 11-5, 11-8), ranked 45th. The 14-year-old wasn’t done there, going on to eliminate world number 41, Veranika Varabyova of Belarus (11-9, 7-11, 11-7, 11-9).

Matiunina faces world number 11 Elena Zaharia in the next round following a perfect day out for the Romanian star, winning all four of her fixtures 3-0. Zaharia is the highest-ranked player left standing after world number 3 Vlada Voronina withdrew at the group hurdle along with four fellow Russian players due to travel disruption.

Success for the Czech Republic in the Under-17 category, the host nation also had reason to be cheerful in the day’s Under-13 Girls’ Singles action as Veronika Polakova, world-ranked 38th, won two of her three group stage encounters before going on to topple the player ranked 21st in the Youth Rankings, Germany’s Josephina Neumann 3-1 (14-12, 5-11, 11-7, 13-11).

Awaiting Polakova at the penultimate stage is none other than France’s Leana Hochart. The highest-ranked player in the category, Hochart, 8th in the Youth Rankings, was forced right down to the wire in her closing fixture of the day, negotiating a tricky contest against Germany’s Faustyna Stefanska (11-8, 5-11, 11-9, 7-11, 11-7), ranked 12th, to reach the last four.

The other semi-final will also feature French representation as Gaetane Bled meets Austrian counterpart Celine Anubis Panholzer. Both players, currently unranked, secured passage to the knock-out draw against the odds, and coincidentally both encountered opposition from Ukraine in the quarter-finals with Bled squeezing past Daria Kovalova (8-11, 11-3, 11-8, 7-11, 11-9) and Panholzer defeating Diana Koliennikova (11-0, 12-10, 6-11, 11-5).

Play in Havirov resumes on Tuesday with the conclusion of the Under-13 and Under-17 Girls’ Singles events, with action from the Under-11, Under-15 and Under-19 Girls’ Singles categories also scheduled.

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