An added ingredient
Now since 2017, under 21 events have been very much integral to ITTF Challenge Series tournaments; not part of the ITTF World Tour.
However, 15 years ago, the situation was somewhat different at the Liebherr 2005 Qatar Open the competition was to some extent the added ingredient.
Previously, some open international tournament organisers had held the competition, others not; the difference in 2005 was that it had been agreed the events would be included in the Volkswagen Pro Tour Grand Finals, to be held later in the year in December in the Chinese city of Fuzhou.
Eight men and eight women were destined to compete in the under 21 competition in Fuzhou. In order to qualify players were required to attend at least four ITTF Pro Tour tournaments during the year and be on duty in at least two continents.
Thus in Qatar which followed Slovenia and Croatia, there was an added flavor to the age group events.
Italy's Nicoletta Stefanova won the under 21 women's singles titles in both Slovenia and Croatia beating the same player in both finals, Serbia's Ana-Maria Erdelji but she couldn't make it three in a row; in Doha she lost in the semis to Kim Jong of North Korea who finished in runners up spot, falling in six games at the final hurdle to Li Qiangbing.
Meanwhile, in the under 21 men's singles both the final in Slovenia and in Croatia went the full seven games with Sweden's Johan Axelqvist gaining the verdict in Velenje with victory over
Slovakia's Lubomir Pistej whilst in Zagreb it was France's Loïc Bobiller who emerged successful, recovering from a three games to nil deficit to beat Brazil's Cazuo Matsumoto in the final.
Bobiller also reached the final of the under 21 men's singles in Qatar but found Peter Sereda in determined mood, the Frenchmen losing in five games to the Slovakian who was in his last year in the age group.
Both Peter Sereda and Li Qiangbing eventually booked places in Fuzhou. Alas, for Peter Sereda, he didn’t win a single match; he finished in fourth place in his group and thus did not qualify for the semi-finals. In the counterpart women’s event, Li Qiangbing advanced to the semi-finals, losing to the eventual winner, Singapore’s Sun Beibei.
Liebherr 2005 Qatar Open Monday 21st – Friday 25th February
Under 21 Men’s Singles
SF Peter Sereda (SVK) bt Dany Lo (FRA) 11-9, 11-6, 11-4, 11-6
SF Loïc Bobiller (FRA) bt Kim Hyok Bong (PRK) 11-7, 11-4, 6-11, 8-11, 13-11, 6-11, 11-7
F Peter Sereda (SVK) bt Loïc Bobiller (FRA) 14-12, 9-11, 11-8, 11-7, 11-9
Under 21 Women’s Singles
SF Kim Jong (PRK) bt Nikoleta Stefanova (ITA) 9-11, 11-3, 11-4, 11-9, 12-10
SF Li Qiangbing (AUT) bt Ko Somi (KOR) 13-11, 11-7, 11-7, 6-11, 11-9
F Li Qiangbing (AUT) bt Kim Jong (PRK) 9-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-1, 11-7, 11-2
Editor: Ian Marshall