(by Ian Marshall)
A quite dazzling display on the morning of Saturday 13th May in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic; followed by one that needed nerves of steel, secured invitations for Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz and Chile’s Nicolas Burgos to attend the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
In the final of the Women’s Singles event, Adriana Diaz beat Bruna Takahashi (11-5, 11-7, 8-11, 11-3, 11-4), before Nicolas Burgos added to Brazilian pain by withstanding a brave fight-back from Guilherme Teodoro to secure Men’s Singles victory, by the very narrowest of margins (11-8, 11-5, 11-7, 8-11, 3-11, 12-14, 11-9).
Winner two weeks earlier of the Under 21 Women’s Singles title at the 2017 ITTF Challenge Slovenian Open when beating Japan’s Saki Shibata in the final (11-13, 11-9, 11-6, 11-5); Adriana Diaz replicated that form in the crucial qualification contest.
“Playing in Slovenia and Croatia helped a great deal; there the level was much higher and playing against the Japanese everything is much faster.” Adriana Diaz
Throughout the contest, Adriana Diaz was the split second quicker when executing the first attack; she gave her Brazilian rival minimal time to react, vitally she was able topspin the return of service and force errors.
“Today, I got the tactics right, playing deep to her backhand I was able to win. I was prepared for her services; I knew how she served, so I was able to be positive returning her service. Before the match I was a little nervous but that’s normal; I listened to music just to calm myself; now I’m just so happy, I’ve qualified for the Youth Olympic Games.” Adriana Diaz
Meanwhile, for Nicolas Burgos it was a very different scenario; calm and collected, a good rhythm to his play, he controlled the opening two games against Guilherme Teodoro but then lost the next three after having held one match point at 12-11 in the sixth.
“I felt quite relaxed in the first three games, my tactics were good, I was able to return his service short and I could play my game. In the fourth he changed his services and I made mistakes, he changed the spin, I couldn’t return short.” Nicolas Burgos
In the seventh the Chilean led 5-1 at the change of ends; Guilherme Teodoro, to his great credit never wilted, at 9-all it was parity. Was there to be a quite memorable recovery?
Alas for Brazil, the answer was to be in the negative, many a 15 year old would have panicked; not Nicolas Burgos, he remained calm in control of his emotions, the next two points were secured, for the first time ever, Chile had a representative in the Youth Olympic Games.
“At the start of the seventh game I was so motivated, one hundred per cent concentration; I decided to serve with my backhand, he made mistakes. At 9-all I was nervous but I told myself to stay calm. The Youth Olympic Games, I’m there, so happy.” Nicolas Burgos
Nervous moments for Chilean supporters and no doubt the heart of Marco Astudillo was beating fast; whilst Nicolas Burgos is from Santiago, he is based in the German city of Leipzig.
“We have been preparing for this for the past five years in Leipzig; now everything has come together, the goal has been achieved. I am so pleased with this result; it makes all the hard work really worthwhile.” Marco Astudillo
Delight for Adriana Diaz and Nicolas Burgos; now for Bruna Takahashi and Guilherme Teodoro it is start again.
They now compete in the second knock-out tournament; the winners of which gain invitations to the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games.
Two boys and two girls qualify via the Latin American Continental Qualification Tournament.
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