Preyesh Raj’s title hopes came crashing down in the inaugural edition of the WTT Youth Star Contender in Tunis, Tunisia. The current sub-junior champion went down to Russian paddler, Ilia Koniukhov after putting up a stiff fight in the Under-15 Boys Singles eliminator. The 9-11, 8-11, 12-10 and 4-11 defeat was heartening, given the ace paddler’s fine run in the league stage.
The two wins in three league matches earned Preyesh Raj second position in the league stage. The Chennai lad overpowered Nigerian, Musa Mustapha 11-7, 12-10 and 11-5 in the opening match and ran through Tunisian, Chadi Hsayri 9-11, 11-4, 11-5 and 11-6 in the subsequent outing. The only defeat (12-14, 6-11and 10-12) in the league stage was against Aleksei Samokhin from Russia.
In the last 16-match, Preyesh made a spectacular comeback against Sweden’s David Bjorkryd after losing a set. In a hard-fought contest, the Indian paddler managed to get the better of the Swedish opponent with a 7-11, 15-13, 8-11, 11-7 and 11-7 win. The way he approached the game and displayed some stunning skills and character made him a serious title contender.
Diya Chitale and Swastika Ghosh earned India a silver in the U-19 Girls Doubles. The duo failed against Natalia Malinina and Elizabet Abramian from Russia in a one-sided final. Their journey to the finals was also impressive. Upon getting a bye in the opener, Indian paddlers went on to defeat the Tunisian pair of Maram Zoghlami and Fadwa Garci, 11-5, 6-11, 11-9 and 11-8. In the semis, they trounced Hanna Arapovic and Linda Zaderova 3-2 to confirm a medal for India.
Diya and Swastika enjoyed a decent run in their U-19 Girls Singles events as well. Both topped their respective tables in the league stage with an all-win record but suffered elimination in the knockouts. Delhi’s Payas had a reasonable run in the U-19 Boys Singles event, finishing second in the league stage but losing 11-6, 4-11, 8-11, 11-5 and 8-11 to Adrien Rassenfosse from Belgium in the last 16-match. Another Indian paddler in the boy’s category, Deepit Patil proved to be an underperformer, failing to make it to the eliminators of the U-19 Boys Singles event. He was placed third on the league table.
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