(Photo: Badmintonphoto)
Top title chances in Tallinn
Date: 1/12/2022 1:40 PM
Published by : Alan Raftery
Estonia’s capital Tallinn is the host of the first European tournament of the year. Players are seeking to get off to a good start in 2022 with the home favourites eyeing up the top prizes in the singles.

The Estonian International has been a mixing pot of established veterans and also young talents wishing to test their game. 

Kento Momota won his first senior title at the event and Finn Ville Lang and Estonia’s Kati Tolmoff, both enjoyed playing there with four singles titles each. Whilst still juniors, the current European Champions, Rodion Alimov/ Alina Davletova won the title in 2017. 

A Must win
In that same year, Raul Must broke a decade-long wait for an Estonian winner when taking the men’s singles title, defeating England’s Toby Penty in the final, 16–21, 24–22, 21–13. Five years on, the 34-year-old is the number one seed and hunting another title. 

Must has a bye in round one and will look to navigate through some qualifiers in the early rounds which feature a number of up-and-coming Malaysian talents. 

Another experienced head may pose a threat to Must. Sri Lanka’s Niluka Karunaratne, 36, who before Christmas played at the World Championships, an incredible 20 years after his debut in 2001, defeated the Estonian just last year in Portugal, 21-18, 27-25. 

Alex Lanier, the European U17 Champion, caught the attention of fans when finishing 2021 with two senior titles. Anything is possible for this young talent who now does not have to contend with qualification at this level and comes in as the fifth seed. With a bye in the first round, he may face his countryman and European Junior bronze medallist, Yanis Gaudin, in round two. 

Is it Kuuba’s year? 
Estonia is the most successful nation in the women’s singles at the Estonia International, with the four back-to-back titles from Kati Tolmoff between 2004 and 2007. In the modern era of Estonia, Kristin Kuuba has been the shining light for her country. 

Last year was one of her best, with the 24-year-old picking up two titles, the Polish and Dutch Opens. Aiming to build on this form, Kuuba is seeking a title on home soil. She came close in the women’s doubles four years ago, reaching the final with Helina Rüütel. In 2018, she came closest with a semifinal finish in the singles. Could this be her year? 

Kuuba will face Moldovan and Centre of Excellence player, Elena-Alexandra Diordiev, who was promoted into the main draw from qualification. 

The main rival for Kuuba could be the second seed, Hungary’s Daniella Gonda. The Peru International finalist from last year has been showing good form, however, if reaching the final against Kuuba, she would need to contend with the 0-3 head-to-head. 

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