02 Nov 2021

Belgium's Tom Closset underlined his credentials as the highest-ranked player in the youthful field as he got his campaign off to a winning start at this week's WTT Youth Contender Cuenca.

by Calvin Koh

The 15-year-old Closset won his first match convincingly 3-0 (11-4, 11-2, 11-5) against Ecuador’s Nikolas Henry Cordero before dashing the local hopes again with another straight-game victory (11-9, 11-8, 11-8) over Henry Ibrara.

Ecuador’s Diego Piguave, the second-highest ranked player, stumbled in his opening match against compatriot Joshua Robayo, going down 2-3 (9-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9, 8-11) to his compatriot. However, the 15-year-old displayed maturity beyond his years by winning his subsequent group encounter with Belgium’s Per Gevers 3-0 (11-9, 11-7, 11-9).

Puerto Rico’s Derek Valenin maintained his perfect start, winning both opening group matches with 3-0 victories over Ecuador’s Alex Fernando Gonzalez Benitez and Leonardo Jeremias Franco.

Like Valenin, Ecuador’s Joseph David Vasquez Hidalgo also topped his group standing with an assured performance where he defeated compatriot Jose Vivanco and Peru’s Rodrigo Vigo by similar 3-0 score lines.

Paul Ignacio Ponce Cedeno of Ecuador won all his three opening matches against Peru’s Renzo Sebastian Zeballos, compatriot Jean Bermeo and Colombia’s Diego Rodriguez to take pole position in group six standing.

“I played well today, and it’s because I prepared myself well. I was very focused, and my coaches helped me during the matches too. I expect it to be a tough day tomorrow, but I will continue to give my best. It’s important as I’m playing in my own country,” said Ponce Cedeno.

Colombia’s Emanuel Otalvaro is looking forward to extending his winning run after beating American Nathanael and Ecuador’s Jose Guerrero in the Under-13 Boys’ Singles. Despite having to deal with the high altitudes of Cuenca, the 11-year-old remains optimistic about his chances this week.

“I am thrilled to be able to participate in a WTT youth event in Ecuador. My first day in the Under-13 competition was good. I finished first, and I need to prepare myself well for the main draw now.

“It wasn’t easy at the beginning because the altitude of Cuenca was affecting my performance. However, after each match, I felt better and was able to enjoy each match,” said Otalvaro.

WTT Youth Contender Cuenca is the first-ever WTT Youth Series event to be staged in Pan America. It provides aspiring youths with the opportunity to embark on their table tennis careers.

More than a hundred youths from Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Congo Democratic, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, USA and Venezuela are competing for top honours across five categories (Under-19, Under-17, Under-15, Under-13, Under-11) in both Boys’ and Girls’ events.

The week-long event at Polideportivo del Complejo de Totoracocha in Cuenca, Ecuador is the 12th event on the 2021 WTT Youth Series schedule, giving local hopefuls such as Matias Baldeon, Jean Bermeo, Alejandra Anchundia Leon, Kimberly Barros and Maria Borja the chance to shine on home ground.

Competing in Ecuador as part of the WTT Youth Series action are Belgium’s Closset, Gevers, Sara Devos and Julie Van Hauwaert, plus Congo Democratic’s Konka Milvi Lusemo, Christian Mbongia, Bovoyi Neredi Mutshu, Exauce Ngefuassa, Terfile Kabedi Ilunga and Julie Kayembe.

For more information on WTT Youth Contender Cuenca, click here.

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