Alexander Gillen produced some of the form of his life as he and partner Finn Vetvik (NOR) made an incredible run to the Last 16 of the Junior Boys Doubles event at the 60th European Youth Championships in Guimaraes, Portugal.
Gillen, who was only participating in the singles events in Portugal, played a key role within the Irish squad throughout the entire event as he acted as an extra bench-man for the Cadet Boys team on the way to their historic success during the team event. Such was his influence in the training hall and playing arena, the coaches needed to send Alexander home to rest after he had lost his voice!
When the time came for Gillen to enter the fold in the singles events, he and Vetviks doubles journey started with a tight straight sets win in round 1 over Ruiz/Lillo (ESP) (9, 11, 10) with the France based player showing a high level throughout.
Next up was a mammoth challenge, as they were drawn against 7th seeds Knudde/Devos (BEL). They stood up to the challenge however, taking the opening two sets 11-9, 12-10 to open up a 2-0 lead. The Belgians responded by taking the 3rd and 4th in quickfire fashion. This left the boys facing a deciding 5th set for a place in the last 16. The Ireland/Norway pairing played some fantastic stuff when it mattered most here, and found themselves with 2 match points as they led 10-8. This wasn’t the end though as they were pegged back to 10-10. They weren’t to be denied though, as the underdogs fought bravely under the most intense of pressure to take the win 12-10 in the 5th – what a match!
In the last 16, Alexander and Finns run was halted by an in form Italian pairing, Mutti/Rossi, as the two European Champions from 2016 proved too strong, winning 3-0. A great effort nonetheless and a brilliant run by the UCD club man.
In the singles event, Alexander won his opening match in straight sets versus Corraea (POR) before being overome by Pieraert (BEL) 4-2 in another extremely positive display.
The other Irish players in action in the singles were Owen Cathcart and Mia O’Rahilly Egan, who were competing in the Cadet Boys and Girls respectively.
Owen lost out in a tough opening round 1 match to Edward Wesshagen (SWE) by a 4-1 scoreline. Unfortunately for Owen he couldn’t manage to find his form following what was an incredible team event for him as he went undefeated throughout, winning 12/12 singles. In the Doubles, Owen and Norwegian partner Borgar Haug had high hopes following their gold medals in the Spanish and Belgium Opens in recent months. It wasn’t to be this time though as they bowed out to Belarus in the Last 32.
Mia was also hoping to build on the form she showed throughout the team event as she embarked on her singles campaign. Unfortunately she couldn’t get past what was a very tough first hurdle, as she lost out to Lou Frete (FRA) in a closely fought match, 4-2. In the doubles, Mia and partner Gidney (ENG) lost out to Turkish pair Harac/Yilmaz.
So that was that for the 60th European Youth Championships in the town of Guimaraes. Next year, the 61st edition of the event will be staged in Romania, and Ireland will be back once again aiming to build on the achievements of this year.
Congratulations to all players and coaches on what was as a whole a fantastic event for the Irish in Portugal. The future looks bright for our young players!