15 Nov 2021

Greece’s Ioannis Sgouropoulos and Germany’s Annett Kaufmann emerged as the leading names in the Men’s and Women’s Singles events following a dramatic final day, Sunday 14th November, at the GAZPROM 2021 European Under 21 Championships in Spa, Belgium.

by Simon Daish

A young man who had experienced the joys of lifting the trophy in 2019, Ioannis Sgouropoulos was keen to sign off his time at the European Under 21 Championships with another Men’s Singles crown. He didn’t disappoint.

Sending shockwaves through the arena with an incredible semi-final comeback, Sgouropoulos overturned a sizeable 0-3 deficit to defeat Russia’s Lev Katsman 4-3 (7-11, 9-11, 9-11, 11-8, 12-10, 11-8, 11-7). Sgouropoulos also took full advantage of the full seven-game distance in the all-important title decider, taking down another Russian counterpart in Maksim Grebnev (11-6, 7-11, 12-10, 13-15, 11-9, 10-12, 11-7) to stand atop the podium.

“It was really difficult to achieve this win, especially when there was so much at stake. I was under stress and was very nervous. I am happy that I can leave this category with the title. Against Rossi, in the Round of 16, I was 3-8 down in the final game. Then in the semis, I did not expect Lev to play the way he did. We train together at the same club, and that is why his play surprised me. I was not ready for that. I felt incredible pressure, and I was constantly looking for the right tactics,” said Ioannis Sgouropoulos

(Photo: ETTU)

Annett Kaufmann stole the show in the Women’s Singles draw after becoming the youngest-ever player to lift the trophy aged just 15 years and five months.

Negotiating a problematic semi-final test which saw her put pleasantries aside to beat compatriot Franziska Schreiner 4-1 (11-6, 11-13, 11-9, 11-6, 16-14), Kaufmann set up the most difficult match on paper. Meeting top seed Mariia Tailakova, 20, at the final hurdle, wild card entry Kaufmann produced a sensational performance to upstage the Russian star across six games (13-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-8, 7-11, 11-8).

“I cannot believe I did it! It was not planned that I would be here at all, and now I am the winner. I am so happy. Tailakova played fantastic matches during the tournament, and I still can’t believe that I beat her. It was a hard tournament for me mentally. I always want to win, and being in such fierce competition is sometimes difficult. I am happy that I won the semi-final, but it was very hard. They tell us to be professional and to play without emotion, but it is difficult. I faced my friend, we share the room together, train together. It wasn’t easy to act like it was just any other match. On top of that, Franziska played extremely well. I had to perform my best in order to keep the match under control,” said Annett Kaufmann

The host nation celebrated title success in the Men’s Doubles event as Adrien Rassenfosse and Olav Kosolosky emerged triumphant. Contesting a topsy-turvy affair from start to finish, the Belgian duo held enough of an advantage over the course of five games to see off Hungary’s Csaba Andras and Croatia’s Ivor Ban (11-8, 11-13, 11-6, 10-12, 12-10).

All five games were also required to settle the Women’s Doubles final as Turkey’s Ozge Yilmaz and Ece Harac completed a sensational comeback. Trailing Serbian opponents Sabine Surjan and Tijana Jokic 0-2, Yilmaz and Harac showed tremendous spirit to steal the crucial third game in dramatic fashion. Reducing the deficit to one game, the Yilmaz and Harac grew from strength to strength, and come the close of game five, it was the Turkish pair who remarkably saw their names etched on the trophy (3-11, 3-11, 16-14, 11-9, 11-5).

For event details for the 2021 European Under 21 Championships click here.

General News Ioannis Sgouropoulos Annett Kaufmann