(by Steve Hopkins, photo ITTFWorld)
This week, many of world’s best juniors converged on Vila Real, Portugal for the WTT Youth Contender Vila Real. Events were players 18 and under with the boys events concluding today and the girls events running through Monday. The tournament was mostly attended by European players, but players from Israel and Puerto Rico were also invited.
Across our sport, many players have missed nearly a year of opportunities to compete – and this has sometimes created unexpected results. That is, young players who may have been drastically improving have not been able to showcase their talents and others who were on a an advanced track may have been sidelined for part of 2020 and may be still be catching up. This WTT contender event was one of the first junior events since the 2020 stoppage.
The top seeds in the Boys U19 event were Andras of Hungary, Ban of Croatia, Rassenfosse of Belgium and Stumper of Germany. Our readers may remember that Kay Stumper upset Dimitrij Ovtcharov in an event two weeks ago in Dusseldorf. Another name of note included Angel Naranjo of Puerto Rico who was seeded No. 9.
The biggest story of the U19 event was Romania’s Darius Movileanu who upset top seeded Andras 3-2 in the Round of 16. Movileanu then outlasted Angel Naranjo 3-2 (after being down 0-2), beat Kay Stumper with a 14-12 marathon in the final game for yet another 3-2 win, and then topped fellow Romanian Istrate 3-1 to take the title.
Interestingly, Movileanu, who is only 15, also competed in the U17 event but fell in the Quarterfinals. Romania dominated the event, however, with all four entries advancing to the Quarterfinals, three Romanians advancing to the Semifinals, and an all-Romanian Final (with Iulian Chirita topping Eduard Ionescu 3-1). Puerto Rico’s Angel Naranjo was the top seed in the event and he fell in the Quarterfinals to Ionescu.
In the U15 event it was also an all-Romanian final. This time it was Iulian Chirita topping Dragos Bujor 3-0.
There were no Romanians entered in the U13 event – perhaps good news for the rest of the field. Local player Tiago Abiodun of Portugal topped Germany’s Noah Hersel in the Final 3-0.
The girls knock-out rounds start on Saturday.
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