Indore, January 25: The 16 boys and 16 girls, representing their country from six continents—Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America and Oceania—in the 2016 ITTF World Junior Circuit Finals, are, indeed, the champion material in the making. And before coming here, the 32 paddlers had showed their prowess in adequate measure, winning a few titles from among the 30 tournaments. However, the three-day finals getting underway from tomorrow at the Abhay Prashal could well be a milestone for the individuals that go on to win the titles here.
Towards that end, Japan’s Yuko Kata starts as the favourites, despite having been seeded No. 5, to wear the girl’s crown purely on the basis of her achievements. Of the 10 Junior Circuit events she had participated this season, the Japanese won four Junior Girls titles in France, Sweden, Portugal and Slovenia besides the two bronze medals in the Cezh Republic and Spain. In other words, she missed the podium finish in Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Croatia and Hungary.
All these speak volumes of her talent. But she will be wary of teammate Kana Takeuchi, who is seeded third, and a consistent player who had secured the second position on the end-of-year list. Kana’s performance was worthy of a place in the Finals as she had finished runner-up in Portugal, Spain and Croatia apart from being a semifinalist in Hong Kong and Hungary.
However, the two Japanese will have to contend with top two seeds from Hong Kong Soo Wai Yam Minnie and Mak Tze Wing, who arguably pose the real danger to Japanese success here. Mak won in Thailand while Minnie Soo succeeded in Chinese Taipei where she defeated Mak in the final. Earlier in the year, Minnie Soo Wai Yam had been the finalist on home soil, losing to China’s Qian Tianyi, a player who did not meet the criteria of competing in two continents to qualify for the Finals. Six other young girls on the Finals list, too, had experienced the same level of success.
Indians Selenadeepthi Selvakumar and Archana Kamath, who is making her successive appearance in the Finals here, won titles at Qatar and Morocco while contenders like Taipei’s Su Pei-Ling and Fang Sih-Han claimed wins in Croatia and Jordan, respectively. Romaniaan Andreea Dragoman, who is on her second trip to Indore, succeeded in Bahrain, Germany’s Caroline Hajok in Tunisia and Tunisia’s Abir Haj Salah won in Algeria.
Among boys, Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic is seeded No. 1 while Japanese Yukiya Uda and Koyo Kanamitsu are behind him at No. 2 and 3. So one assumes the big fight for the title is going to from these three unless somebody from below surprises. The Indian challenge in the boy’s section will come from Manav Thakkar, the golden boy with a good number of titles to his credit this season, while Ronit Bhanja could, at best, be good fighter who will look to make it to the quarterfinals.
Darko was here last year but could not go beyond the quarters as Japanese Izumo Takuto captured the title. For Qatari Abdul Wahhab Mohammed, too, it is his second appearance here.
The matches, to be played in two stages, will see players being divided into four groups and top tow finishes from each group will play in the knockout, beginning from quarterfinals. And those who bow out at the semifinals will get to play the consolation matches to decide positions 3 and 4.
Both Manav Thakkar and Ronit Bhanja are drawn in the first two groups which make their qualification a little more difficult. But Manav does stand a chance if he manages to put it across American Victor Liu and Rohan Dhooria, two other boys in Group 1 along with top-seed Darko Jorgic. Ronit, on the other hand, has Japanese Yukiya Uda, Taipei’s Li Hsin-Yang, Thailand’s anapong Panagitgun to contend with.
In comparison, it should be easy for Archana, who is part of Group 2 which features second seed Tze Wing Mak, ninth seed Amy Wang of USA and Portugal’s Raquel Andrade. But Selenadeepthi’s task won’t be any easy as she will have to overcome Japanese Kana Takeuchi, Taipei’s Sup Pei-Ling and Romanian Andreea Clapa in Group 3.
In the $36,000 prize money event, with the winner in each category getting $3,800, no player would want to settle for anything less than the title and the biggest prize purse—a just reward after a year-long hard work a paddler has put in his fledgling career. Even those finishing 13 and beyond will not go empty handed as they are set to earn $462.50, the least from the competition.
Boys: 1. Darko Jorgic (Slo), 2. Yukiya Uda (Jap), 3. Koyo Kanamitsu (Jap), 4. Tobias Hippler (Ger), 5. Alexandru Manole (Rou), 6. Chi-Chien Lai (Tai), 7. Manav Thakkar (Ind), 8. Hsin-Yang Li (Tai), 9. Yanapong Panagitgun (Tha), 10. Victor Liu (USA), 11. Rashed Sanad (Bah), 12. Mohammed Abdul Wahhab (Qat), 13. Ronit Bhanja (Ind), 14. Rohan Dhooria (Aus), 15. Omar Ammous (Tun), 16. Nawaf Al-Malki (Qat).
Girls: 1. Wai Yam Minnie Soo (HK), 2. Tze Wing Mak (HK), 3. Kana Takeuchi ((Jap), 4. Andreea Dragoman (Rou), 5. Yuko Kato (Jap), 6. Pei-Ling Su (Tai), 7. Sih-Han Fang (Tai), 8. Archana Girish Kamath (Ind), 9. Amy Wang (USA), 10. Caroline Hajok (Ger), 11. Andreea Clapa (Rou), 12. Martina Kohatsu (Bra), 13. Jiamuwa Wu (Aus), 14. Selena Selvakumar (Ind), 15. Raquel Andrade (Por), 16. Abir Haj Salah (Tun).