by Simon Daish
Hungary’s Andras, ranked 16th in the ITTF Youth Rankings, was put on the back foot early on after falling short in his Group 4 opener against Romania’s Iulian Chirita (11-5, 12-10, 5-11, 11-8). The spotlight however, was reserved for France’s Thibault Poret as the world number 210 produced a stunning performance to leave Andras with more questions than answers (11-9, 11-9, 9-11, 8-11, 11-7).
Andras wasn’t the day’s only shock casualty as world number 20 Adam Klajber also fell at the group hurdle following defeats to Norway’s Borgar Haug (11-7, 11-9, 8-11, 11-7) and Portugal’s Goncalo Gomes (11-9, 6-11, 6-11, 11-3, 11-7).
Another high-profile Slovak shared Klajber’s fate as Filip Delincak, world-ranked 22nd, lost all three of his group stage encounters including a five-game defeat to Italy’s Tommaso Giovannetti (10-12, 11-7, 17-15, 7-11, 11-8), ranked 161st. Giovannetti’s compatriot Andrea Puppo also impressed, beating the Under-19 champion from WTT Youth Star Contender Tunis, Germany’s Kay Stumper 3-0 (11-8, 13-11, 11-6) to claim first position in the top group.
“The key to beating Stumper was surely the backhand service and pushing to his forehand. I was also very aggressive in my game, and I think that was the key to winning. The goal for tomorrow is to reach the semi-finals.” Andrea Puppo.
Iulian Chirita, who lifted the Under-15 trophy last week in Havirov, is safely through to the Under-15 Boys’ Singles round of 16 in Otocec.
The Romanian, ranked number one in the world for the age bracket, recovered from an early deficit to see off Israeli counterpart Uri Almor (8-11, 11-6, 11-3, 11-4), defeating Samuel Arpas of Slovakia soon after (11-5, 11-6, 11-1) to top Group 1.
“I feel great after the first day, I played well. It was great because I played great matches. I am happy that we have started with the competitions again and I want to give it my best.” Iulian Chirita.
Tom Closset, ranked 14th, also takes his place in the knock-out rounds, but the Belgian wasn’t too far away from missing out altogether as he required a comeback win over Slovenia’s very own Brin Vovk Petrovski (11-3, 4-11, 9-11, 11-3, 11-9), ranked 244th, in the final group fixture.
Surviving a close shave in the singles, however, Closset’s run in the Under-15 Boys’ Doubles was halted in the quarter-finals. Closset and Hungarian partner David Szantosi were undone by Slovakia’s Samuel Arpas and Samuel Palusek (11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 10-12, 11-8), who move on to face Sweden’s Isak Alfredsson and Qatar’s Rawad Alnaser for a place in the final.
The Under-19 Boys’ Doubles quarter-finals also featured a five-game epic as Damir Akhmetsafin and Maksim Bokov kept their title hopes alive in dramatic fashion. Trailing Slovakian opponents Adam Klajber and Filip Delincak by the close of game three, the Russian pair didn’t let their heads drop and were rewarded for their determination with a narrow 3-2 victory (11-5, 6-11, 11-13, 12-10, 11-6).
Another exciting day awaits on Saturday as stakes are raised even higher with all four Boys’ events playing to conclusion. Who will emerge champions on a drama-packed final day in Otocec?
Keep up to date with the action on www.worldtabletennis.com