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Hungarian Junior & Cadet Open: Americans Making Waves in Vas

(by Steve Hopkins, photo courtesy of ITTF)
The 2019 ITTF Junior Circuit Premium Hungarian Junior & Cadet Open was held this week in Szombathely, Hungary, a city in the Western county of Vas near the Austrian border.  As a Premium event, this event included many of the best juniors in the world.  Nikhil Kumar was the highest ranked US junior boy (seeded No. 7), and Kai Zarehbin and Michael Tran (seeded 28 and 30) were both seeded US players in the Junior Boys event as well.  The only seeded US junior girl was Rachel Sung (at No. 9) and was joined by Faith Tung and Joanna Sung in the Junior Girls event.  Rachel Sung was also seeded in the Cadet Girls event at No. 8.
In the Junior Boys event, Kai Zarehbin fell to China’s Tao Yuchang in the Round of 64.  Michael Tran defeated Spain’s Miguel Nunez 4-2 but then fell to Romania’s Darius Movileanu 4-2 in the Round of 32.  Nikhil Kumar was the highest seeded American in the event, and his run to the Semifinals exceeded expectations.  Nikhil has wins over Ukraine’s Malov and Poland’s Kolasa in the early rounds.  He then overcame China’s Hu Dongshen in a tight 4-2 battle in the Round of 16 before taking out the second seeded Tai Ming-Wei of Taipei 4-3 in the Quarterfinals.  Nikhil’s run ended in a heartbreaking 4-3 loss in the Semifinals.  He jumped out to an early lead by taking the first two games and was up 3-1 as well.  But China’s Zeng Beixun won the final three games to seal the win.  Zeng over Kumar 4-3 (-7, -23, 8, -23, 6, 9, 8).  The final match was between China’s Quan and China’s Zeng with Quan scoring a 4-3 victory.
In the qualifying round of the Junior Girls event, Joanna Sung was seeded third in her group but scored two upsets to finish first go advance.  Faith Tung lost a tough 3-2 match to Finland’s Ramona Betz to fall to third in her group, so she did not advance.
Rachel Sung, who was a seeded player and did not have to qualify, scored two wins (over Spain’s Matos and Hungary’s Tolgyes) in the early rounds.  She fell to Germany’s Anastasia Bondareva 4-3 in the Round of 16.  Joanna Sung won her first match over Russia’s Liubov Tentser before falling to Germany’s Sophia Klee.  The event ended in an all-Chinese final with Wang Tianyi defeating Li Yake 4-3.
In Junior Boys Doubles, Nikhil Kumar and Michael Tran won two rounds before falling to the event’s second seeded Chinese Team of Liang/Quan in the Quarterfinals.  Liang/Quan won the event with a 3-1 win over the Taipei team of Huang/Tai.  The US Team of Sung & Sung advanced to the Round of 16 in Junior Girls Doubles.  They lost to the top seeded Taipei team of Chien/Yu.  Chien/Yu went on to win the event.
The Cadet events are still underway.  Thus far, the US Cadet Girls Doubles team of Rachel and Joanna Sung is undefeated and through to the Round of 16.  In the Cadet Girls Team event, the Sung sisters upset the Russian Team, but then fell to China – and keeping pace with the luck of the US Junior Doubles teams, the team that beat them went on to win the event.
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