Top 16 at 2019 European Youth Championships
The European Youth Championships is the season finale for the European Cadet and Junior players. The 2019 Championships was my 4th one, twice I competed as a cadet and once as a junior. In 2016 I played in the England Cadet team which finished 5th in the team event, one of the best position finishes an England team has achieved in recent history. Last year in my first season as a Junior, we finished in 18th position, just falling short of our target which was a top 16 position. In the singles event my ranking was quite low so I had to play a preliminary round but then lost in the round of 128.
This year my preparation had been hampered quite early in the season, picking up an injury just before the Hungarian Junior Open it meant I dropped down the rankings and so finally my position on the England team was only confirmed by a wild card position. We had some preparation camps in Portugal and England before we travelled to Ostrava in Czechia.
The team event started quite well as we won our group, but we again were drawn against Sweden who were perhaps the strongest team to playing against at that point in the competition. We didn't get the result and this meant we were playing for positions 17-21 which wasn't what we had come for.
In the singles event, I faced a local Czechia player in round of 128. I started badly and was 2-1 down in sets and 6-1 down in the 4th. I won a tough rally and that kicked me on, eventually I won 4 sets to 3, though I only dropped 5 points in total over the last two sets, so clearly a match with two halves to it. My next match was against the 4th seed, the no 1 ranked player from Russia. On paper I had no chance, but I believed in my game and found myself at 3-10 and 10-9, a match point against a top seed. I wasn't able to convert that match point but refocused and won the match in the following set. This is possibly my biggest international victory so far. I then had to fit in a doubles match but then next up was the top Lithuanian player who had beaten me 3-0 in the team match a few days before. We had a great match, some fantastic rallies and very close sets, though I ended up winning 4-2 and the last set 11-4, it felt much closer than that. I then had to wait almost 24 hours for the round of 16, playing the no 1 Slovakian. I won the first set but then lost my momentum and eventually lost the match 4-1. Disappointed I could not go further and get to a medal match but I have to be very pleased to have made the top 16 for the first time and a major step forward from 2018.