by Simon Daish
Petr Hodina couldn’t have asked for a better start to the day’s Under 13 Boys’ Singles action, resuming his campaign with a 3-0 success against India’s Atherva Gupta (11-7, 11-4, 12-10). The semi-final proved a more formidable challenge, but an unfazed Hodina held his nerve to avenge his recent defeat to Germany’s Noah Hersel at WTT Youth Contender Otocec 2021 (11-7, 11-3, 8-11, 3-11, 11-7).
Saving the greatest test until last, Hodina’s opponent in the title decider was none other than the highest-ranked player on duty, and fellow Austrian, Julian Rzihauschek. Encountering severe pressure in the opening stages of the final, Hodina formed a superb response to turn his fortunes around (7-11, 7-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-4).
“My opponent was leading 2-0, as was also the case in the final match in the tournament in Slovenia, but I fought to the end and won. I am happy, but also a little sad because my colleague from the Austrian team was disappointed after the match. I played very well, I fought in every match, and I tried my best to finish first. I was second in the tournament in Slovenia because I lost to Germany’s Noah Hersel, whom I defeated here in the semi-finals,” said Hodina
A player very much in-form following his recent success in Otocec, Iulian Chirita has another title success to celebrate in Varaždin.
Returning to the Under 17 Boys’ Singles race at the quarter-final hurdle, Chirita accounted for Kazakhstan’s Alan Kurmangaliyev (11-8, 11-5, 11-4) and fellow Romanian competitor Darius Movileanu (11-6, 5-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-7) to move one step closer to victory. Negotiating a tricky start to the final, Chirita grew from strength to strength, beating Belgium’s Louis Laffineur to the podium’s top step (13-11, 11-7, 11-7).
“I am very happy to have won the title. I played very well yesterday and today; I was very motivated and determined to win, and I am very happy to have won this tough final. Louis and I know each other very well. The semi-final with my teammate Darius Movileanu was also a very difficult match. This tournament has been very good, very well organised and I really like playing in Varaždin,” said Chirita
Czech Republic’s Ondrej Kveton survived a major group stage scare as the Under 19 Boys’ Singles event commenced. Losing his opening fixture, Kveton breathed a sigh of relief after his victory over Germany’s Heye Koepke (12-14, 11-6, 11-3, 11-3) proved enough to qualify for the next round.
Roman Vinogradov was the only top 10 ranked player to suffer defeat in the Under 15 event, but the Russian takes his place in the knock-out draw despite the setback against German counterpart Matej Haspel (11-1, 9-11, 11-7, 11-9). Four players remain in the Under 11 event, with Hungary’s Mark Gergely, Croatia’s Petar Zidaric, England’s Kacper Piwowar and Qatar’s Mohammed Al-Saluati advancing from the group phase.
The final day of play hosts the conclusion to three exciting title races with trophies up for grabs in the Under 11, Under 15 and Under 19 Boys’ Singles events on an action-packed Friday.