by Simon Daish
Romania’s Zaharia, 11th in the ITTF Youth Rankings, came mightily close to falling short with Ukraine’s Veronika Matiunina, ranked 124th, only just missing out after putting up a brave fight (11-7, 11-8, 9-11, 9-11, 13-11). Zaharia also needed five games in her semi-final meeting with world number 27 Naomi Pranjkovic, requiring a late comeback to defeat her German counterpart (11-9, 12-14, 10-12, 11-5, 11-7).
Squeezing over the line against Matiunina and Pranjkovic, 16-year-old Zaharia did well to put two mentally draining experiences behind her and she would ultimately end the day with a smile on her face. With her eyes firmly set on the prize, Zaharia secured a commendable 3-1 victory over another German in Annett Kaufmann (11-6, 11-6, 7-11, 11-2), world ranked 40th, and with it the title.
“I feel really good. I lost the final of the last tournament in Portugal, so I’m really proud of myself that I could win this time. My aim is to finish top four (in the Under-19s), so the semi-finals is the goal.” Elena Zaharia (sic)
Leana Hochart was another player who shone on the second day of play as she took home France’s first-ever WTT Youth Series title with her undefeated run in the Under-13 Girls’ Singles event.
Surviving a stern test against the Czech Republic’s very own Veronika Polakova (10-12, 11-6, 11-8, 8-11, 11-9), world number 8 Hochart encountered another gruelling contest soon after, denying Gaetane Bled in a pulsating all-French final (11-9, 11-7, 8-11, 4-11, 11-5).
“I’m still shaking, but I feel very good! I was quite nervous because it was really quiet in the hall and we were the only ones playing.” Leana Hochart
Before Zaharia and Hochart’s successes, Diana Koliennikova was the first player to clinch a title in Havirov with the competitor from Ukraine standing atop the Under-11 Girls’ Singles podium.
Advancing from the group stage hurdle with ease, Koliennikova, currently unranked on the world stage, required just the three games to see off the host nation’s Hanka Kodetova (11-7, 11-4, 11-7) to reach the final. Standing between Koliennikova and euphoria was Germany’s Josephina Neumann, ranked 5th in the Youth Rankings. A tight affair from start to finish, Neumann recovered well to force the full distance but there was no stopping Koliennikova on this occasion (11-8, 11-9, 2-11, 12-14, 11-6).
“I feel very happy after this difficult match. I was more nervous than normal because this is an international tournament and there are also cameras here.” Diana Koliennikova
The day also signalled the start of the Under-19 Girls’ Singles event with group stage action on the agenda. Tereza Bartova, ranked 340th in the world, was amongst the list of standout performers as she beat Slovakia’s Dominika Wiltschkova (11-8, 8-11, 11-7, 6-11, 11-5) to join five of her Czech colleagues in the knock-out rounds.
Meanwhile, there was a major departure in the Under-15 Girls’ Singles as Romania’s Bianca Mei Rosu, world number 17 and a finalist last month in Vila Real, exited at the first hurdle in Havirov with her defeat to Russia’s Ekaterina Ivanova (11-4, 11-7, 11-4) proving costly.
Wednesday marks the final day of Girls’ action with both the Under-15 and Under-19 Girls’ Singles title races to be decided.
Keep up to date with the action on www.worldtabletennis.com