Yigit's chance to create history on home soil
Turkey's Neslihan Yigit is certainly a star in the making and with star quality comes the burden of expectation to deliver results on the big stage.
As an U19 junior there is no bigger stage than the 2013 European Junior Championships and this is without doubt Yigit’s opportunity to propel herself into the big time. Turkey have never won a European medal of any description and there can be no bigger motivation for the quietly spoken Turk to change that statistic than to do it in front of her home crowd in Ankara.
Senior Experience in a Junior world
The facts speak for themselves on the lead up to this European Junior Individual tournament. The facts are simple when it comes to analysing the women’s singles event as it is awash with a top class entry and all things considered there are at least 8 athletes who can claim the top step of the podium come Sunday 31st March.
The pressure will be intense on Yigit to deliver but her vast amount of senior experience, which included a trip to the London Olympics last summer as the first ever Turk to do so, will most likely prove pivotal in her assault on the title.
The tall 1.78m Turk however has been a notoriously slow starter and this is something she cannot afford to do against any potential opponent in Ankara. On the plus side her strokes execution and shot selection, once in her rhythm, often pull her through after a first set loss and with an engine akin to a central midfield football player the Turk can go the distance with anyone.
Yigit will be looking over her shoulder from all angles and in terms of senior experience the Turk will be matched by established players such as Sefani Stoeva from Bulgaria, Delphine Lansac from France and the dynamic Danish trio of two time senior tour winner Line Kjaersfeldt, recent German junior champ Anna Thea Madsen and new kid on the block Natalia Koch Rhode. Kjaersfeldt is the main threat and this individual title is something the Dane wants on her CV. The disappointment of Finland two years ago is still fresh in the mind of the recent Irish and Estonian Open champion and there is no doubting her ambition to lift the title for Denmark after her decision to forego entry in the mixed and women’s doubles.
“This is my last year as a junior and this is a title I want to win. The women’s singles is so tough this year but I am motivated and ready to fight to win.”
All these athletes are senior players in a junior world and if they should fail to find the winning formula others like Kaja Stankovic (SLO), Lucie Cerna (CZE) and Russia’s Evgeniya Kosetskaya will not require a second invitation.
Opportunities for smaller nations.
While traditionally the bigger more established nations would be expected to challenge for all the medals there is a distinct opportunity for some of the smaller nations to shine in Ankara. The men’s singles affords some of the emerging nations the chance to make a name for themselves in what is traditionally the blue riband event of any major championship.
In the absence of Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, Austria’s Matthias Almer will be the top ranked men’s singles player but will have to improve on his recent German Junior Open performance where he went down to Danish challenger Mathias Mundbjerg.
Irelands Jonathan Dolan will be buoyed by his recent performance at senior level at the European mixed team championships in Russia and his run to the quarter finals at the world juniors in October will give the Sligo man an outside chance for the podium.
Finland will hope that Kalle Koljonen can lift the title that Pontus Jantii won in 1987 and Czech youngster Adam Mendrek certainly has the game to trouble any of his rivals but is cautious about his chances. “I hope to show my best in Turkey. This is my last European junior championships and I don’t want to put any pressure on my shoulders. I just want to play like I played at the world juniors last year”
Denmark will call on Rasmus Grill to carry the burden of expectation and England’s Rhys Walker had a good run at the recent German Junior which indicates his progression. On form Fabian Roth of Germany holds the best chance of success in Ankara after a run to the quarter final in Germany before losing out to the eventual winner in a tournament that was jam packed with top Asian opposition.
The women’s doubles will also break from the norm as the Bulgarian Stoeva sisters will carry the burden of favourites into next week’s showdown. Winning and competing in senior tournaments has become second nature to the sisters and their sibling companionship is not to be underestimated in a tournament that extends to 10 days. However a lot will also depend on singles sister Stefani’s progression in the individual event as mental fatigue and a long stay in Ankara could play its part.
A point to prove for Danish men
In terms of European Junior medals Danish men have underperformed for the best part of the last decade. It has been 8 long years since the great nation lifted their last European junior men’s doubles title and this year’s event represents their best chance to rectify that worrying statistic.
David Daugard and Mathias Christiansen will be backed up by Kasper Antonsen and Oliver Babic and the rest of the pack will have a real test to break this dynamic Danish pairings down. It will in fact rest to specialist doubles pairs to bring the fight to the Danes and in Turkey that task will rest on the shoulders of French pair Lodiot & Miao and Dutch duo Tabeling & Muns.
Toss a coin in a mixed bag
Finally the mixed doubles is more akin to a lottery where any one of 10 pairs are in with a realistic chance of success. A lot will hinge on the chemistry and experience of a pair who have developed together over and above any new pair that put singles before doubles as a priority.
With this in mind the Dutch duo of Myke Halkema and Robin Tabeling will fancy their chances of lifting some silverware for The Netherlands. The Danes hold a trump card in the shape of Julie Finne-Ipsen and in a partnership with Kasper Antonsen will be one of the Danes three pairings going for gold. Finn-Ipsen, who is also a top class golfer, has emerged as one of the potential stars of Danish badminton and although not a household name is certainly on her way to making a name for herself.
German duo of Volkmann and Lamsfuss will bring to Turkey the momentum of their semi-final appearance at the recent ‘A’ rated German Junior which was the best by any European pair against tough Asian opposition. The French have a trio of top pairs and in reality each pair is as competent as the other. Bastian Kersaudy and Anne Tran will carry the hopes of ‘Les Blues’ but strength in depth is something the French are blessed with at these 2013 European Junior Championships. Jordan Corvee teams up with one of the tours more colourful characters and if Marie Batomene brings her A game to Ankara then the rest of Europe better watch out as her athleticism will blow most others away.
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