WTC23 - New king and queen on the top of the Teq World
After coming up short in the previous editions, Rafaella Fontes and Adrian Duszak overcame every hurdle and conquered the Teq World.
The fact that the top 4 consisted of players from Asia, Europe, North America and South America proves that Teqball is already global, and this is what happened in the women's singles this year. Early in the afternoon, 2022 singles champion Carolyn Greco took on Jutatip Kuntatong at the new scene of the tournament, the prestigious Bangkok Arena. The home player struck first, but the American came back with an impressive run and built a 6:2 lead in the first set. However, Kuntatong never lost her confidence and started to rely on her serves to put Greco under pressure. The title holder had no answer, and even though she saved some bicycle kicks from the Thai, she could not gain momentum. Kuntatong tied the score at 9:9 and never looked back afterward, taking a 1:0 advantage. Then she took control early in the second and put together a large advantage, big enough to never let Greco back in the contest and closed out the first semifinal 2:0.
Then European champion Kinga Barabasi faced Brazilian Rafaella Fontes in the second battle. The South American showed right at the beginning that she came ready to play, unlike Barabasi who was unable to keep up with her rival. Fontes was the unquestionably dominant force in the opening period, so Barabasi had to make adjustments for the second. She became more aggressive and fast, which helped her case, but after leading 9:7, Fontes went on a 3:0 run, and at 11:11, she capitalized on her first chance to end the game.
The bronze match is often considered the duel of the disappointed, and early on it looked like Greco was the one who had a tougher time to recover from the loss. Barabasi came out flying with a 5:0 eruption, but then the American showed tremendous resilience and fought back, and she was the first to get a set point. Barabasi did not collapse, though, and snatched the set with 2 points in a row.
Greco had a better start in the second period, but the Romanian did not let her run away. Barabasi not only chased down her opponent, but left her in the dust: after 4:4, she scored 8 of the last 9 rallies to win the set, the match, and the bronze!
Women’s singles, bronze medal game:
Carolyn Greco (USA–Kinga Barabasi (ROU) 0:2 (-11, -5)
“I am really happy with the bronze despite I came to Bangkok for the gold. I have worked really hard for this and now I can say I am on the right way. I hope the future holds me a gold. I played terribly in the semifinal, my service was very off, she surprised me with some long balls and when I had the opportunities to smash, I missed a lot of them. Then I played a very good game with Carolyn, I think that level would have been enough to win the semis, but it is history now. Before the bronze medal game, I decided to forget what happened and tried to focus only on how I was going play against Carolyn and I managed to execute my plan.” - said Barabasi, who finished this season as the sport’s first European Champion in the women’s singles, then took home the bronze at the World Teqball Championships.
Both Kuntatong and Fontes made their first ever appearance in the WCh final, and both of them had people behind their backs. The former obviously enjoyed the support of the home crowd while the latter had her teammates and none other than Ronaldinho cheering for her. Fontes got off to a brilliant start and built a 5:1 lead, but Kuntatong was able to erase it almost entirely. Fontes then shifted gears, put together some nice streaks, and managed to hold off Kuntatong. She carried the momentum on to the beginning of the second set, and at one point, she possessed a 7:3 lead. But Kuntatong did not give up, fought back to equalize the score at 10, and the crowd went crazy. However, Fontes did not let her opponent complete the comeback and spoiled the local fans’ joy by winning the next two points, and that meant not only the set and the match, but the World Championship title for her! Also, it was Brazil’s first single gold medal in any World Championships.
Women’s singles, final:
Jutatip Kuntatong (THA)–Rafaella Fontes (BRA) 0:2 (-8, -10)
“I am not sad at all, I am grateful to be here and proud to represent the Thai culture. It was great to have so many fans out here even though it is kind of a new sport here. I trained very hard for this World Championships and my father helped me to achieve this.” - said the silver medallist, who won the first medal ever for her country.
“It is a very special moment for me, something I have been looking for since last year, or since I started Teqball. I knew it was not going to be easy, but I always have God with me, who says I can do everything and gives me the strength to be here. Also, I was very happy that Ronaldinho was here, he just gave me more motivation to go on, to win this championship, to give my all. I really thank him for being present, for everything, he is a sensational person, and he deserves everything he achieved. I am also grateful to everyone who was watching, everyone from Brazil. Very happy to be Brazil’s first individual champion!” - said the new queen of the Teq world, Rafaella Fontes, who then shared the table with the football legend for a gala match.
In the men’s singles, Danish Brian Mengel Thomsen already achieved his best ever international result, but it did not satisfy him. He jumped out of the gate against reigning champion Apor Gyorgydeak and took a 4:1 lead, but the Romanian (just like previously versus Uthen Kukhaew) found his game and fought back with an incredible 9:0 run and won the first set. He did not slow down in the second as he scored the first seven points, and even though Thomsen tried a late surge, Gyorgydeak did not let this bout slip away from him and advanced to his second consecutive final.
Then Adrian Duszak attempted to follow suit and proceed to his second final in a row, but Hugo Rabeaux was determined to prevent that. However, the Polish legend was just too much for the Frenchman in the first set and controlled the game, even at the end, when Rabeux got closer. The second was much tighter with many lead changes, and the turning point occurred when Duszak came up with back-to-back aces. From then on, it was his game to lose and once again finished strong to advance to the gold medal game.
In the bronze match, Rabeux showed no signs of being down or disappointed. He played on a higher level from the get-go than Thomsen, who had some nice moments, but was not able to keep the score close in the first. The second set was even more lopsided, as Rabeux started it with a 7:0 streak and kept his foot on the gas. He performed spectacular saves that took the crowd’s breath away and also showed everyone that he was still motivated after the loss in the semis. He finished the second set even faster than the first one, and won his second bronze medal in a major international tournament in 2023.
Men’s singles, bronze medal game:
Brian Mengel Thomsen (DEN)–Hugo Rabeux (FRA) 0:2 (-6, -3)
“I am not fully happy, I got too nervous before the semifinal and I do not like that. But during the bronze match, I was all smiles, and my attack and defense were perfect, so I am glad after all. I put a lot of focus on defense, much more than on attack and it worked this time. Brian is my friend, so it was crazy to play against him. I had a good year, this tournament was great with the beautiful, kind and crazy people, in a good way. I hope I will be a champion one day.” - said Rabeux after the match.
The rematch of the 2022 WCh final and the 2023 EG final between Gyorgydeak and Duszak lived up to the expectations. The defending champ had the better start but the 5-time medallist crawled back from rally to rally. The Romanian did not panic at all and took back the lead, but after having a 10:9 advantage, he was not able to finish off Duszak, who scored three straight and stole the opening set. At the beginning of the second, they went toe-to-toe until 3:3, when Duszak created a two-point difference, which he later extended to four. Gyorgydeak once again erased the deficit, but Duszak stayed strong, took the lead and never let go of it. After two silvers and three bronzes, finally he reached the top of the Teq World and sat on the throne!
Men’s singles, final:
Apor Gyorgydeak (ROU)–Adrian Duszak (POL) 0:2 (-10, -9)
“To be honest, I am very disappointed. I had two goals for 2023: to be victorious at the European Games and to defend my title in Bangkok. Congratulations to Adrian, he had a tremendous day and I just could not deal with him. But it will give me extra motivation for next year! We know each other pretty well, so he did not surprise me with anything, I was just unable to receive his serves and did not bring my A-game, too.” - said Apor Gyorgydeak.
“I have waited 6 years for this moment, and it is so incredible that Ronaldinho presented me with the trophy. I really do not know what to say. My dream has come true after three bronze medals and two silvers, it is the best thing in the World! My mind was very clear, I was focusing on myself through every single point, I talked to myself a lot, whether I won or lost the point, and it helped me.” - said Adrian Duszak, who also won Poland’s first world championship.
On Sunday, the Teqball World Championships 2023 will come to an end as we will crown the winners of the women’s, the men’s and the mixed doubles winners. Four teams are left in each category and the battle promises to be at least as exciting as it was in the singles!