by Simon Daish
Making a solid start to the Under 17 Girls’ Singles event with two group stage victories, Papadimitriou’s journey almost came to an abrupt halt in the round of 32, only to pull an incredible comeback out of the bag to beat Romania’s Alesia Sofia Sferlea 3-2 (4-11, 5-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-3). The Greek star survived a significant scare and responded with a statement win over Uzbekistan’s Markhabo Magdieva (11-2, 11-8, 12-10) to secure her passage to the round of 16.
“I like to play against this style. I know Markhabo Magdieva well, she’s a good player, we played together in one tournament two months ago, and I knew how she played. The hardest moment in the match was the last game when I was 10-8 up. Then it was 10-10, and I started to think that if I lose the game, the score would be 2-1 on games, and then it would be a tough match for me. I knew I had to win 3-0. I concentrated, calmed down, practised my tactics, and won. It was good for me in the group because I had easier matches, but after that, I had very difficult matches. I was more nervous. I played worse at the beginning of the match against the Romanian player. Later I found the tactics; I came back into the match and won. Elena Zaharia, a very good player, is waiting for me in the quarter-finals. I am an outsider in this match. I have to find the right tactics for the match and hope for a good result,” said Papadimitriou
Papadimitriou’s next opponent is none other than Romania’s Elena Zaharia, a player who demonstrated her prowess with a fine showing on day one. Opening her account with a 3-0 victory over Slovenia’s Sara Tokic (12-10, 11-4, 13-11), Zaharia was just as impressive against Croatia’s Dora Cosic one round later (11-7, 11-9, 11-7).
Elsewhere, Veronika Matiunina of Ukraine edged one of the tightest fixtures of the day with her 3-2 success against Germany’s Naomi Pranjkovic (4-11, 11-7, 11-3, 12-14, 11-4), while Hana Arapovic prevailed over Russia’s Iuliia Pugovkina (11-3, 15-13, 11-7) and Austria’s Anastasiya Radzionava (11-5, 10-12, 11-7, 12-10) to keep the Croatian flag flying.
Eseniia Shirokova is one of four players left standing in the Under 13 Girls’ Singles event following a productive day at the office for the Russian. Outpowering Hungary’s Sophie Barcsai 3-0 (11-5, 11-8, 11-9), Shirokova added a quarter-final victory over Czech Republic’s Veronika Polakova to the list (15-13, 11-8, 3-11, 11-7) to set up a meeting with India’s Hansini Mathan Rajan following her outstanding display against the highest-ranked player on duty, Germany’s Josephina Neumann (11-4, 11-7, 11-5).
“I am very happy to have won my quarter-finals match. I honestly did not expect to reach the semi-finals. The tournament is very good, and the matches are very difficult. I’m not thinking about the semi-finals; I’m just thinking about my game and how to play even better,” said Shirokova
The other semi-final features Uzbekistan’s Asel Erkebaeva and Germany’s Faustyna Stefanska. Two players who met in semi-finals action at WTT Youth Contender Vila Real 2021, Erkebaeva and Stefanska, needed just the four games to negotiate their respective quarter-final encounters in Varaždin. They saw off Germany’s Lorena Morsch (11-1, 10-12, 11-5, 11-5) and Romania’s Andreea Baiasu (9-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-3).
Play resumes on Sunday with action getting underway from 9.00 local time. Day two sees group stage matters contested in the Under 11, Under 15 and Under 19 Girls’ Singles events, while the title races wrap up in the Under 13 and Under 17 events.