European Championships | 28 Jan 2024

Ukraine's Veronika MATIUNINA Secures First Gold at European Championships

Veronika MATIUNINA of Ukraine emerged as the newly crowned champion in the Women's Singles event at the Under 21 European Championships in Skopje. She secured the gold after a close final against Romania's Elena ZAHARIA, with Hana ARAPOVIC of Croatia claiming the bronze along with Poland's Anna BRZYSKA.

Veronika MATIUNINA has made history by becoming the first Ukrainian to win a singles title and the second Ukrainian medalist at the EC U21. The first Ukrainian to win a European singles title since 2009, when Margaryta PESOTSKA claimed the junior title at the European Youth Championships.

“This is my first major title in singles. At the European championships in singles I was runner up, and also second in doubles and team events. In addition, last year in the Under 21 Championships, I clinched silver in doubles. Four times I reached the final, and four times I lost,” said MATIUNINA.

In the intense final today, Veronika MATIUNINA overcame Elena ZAHARIA in seven games (11-9, 6-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-9, 12-14, 11-5). MATIUNINA lost to ZAHARIA last year in Gliwice when Romania's player became European champion by the same margin.

“I played against ZAHARIA something like four times, and each time I lost so close. This time I just felt this is my chance. I knew I will make it. I played really well throughout the whole tournament. This was the last game; I put everything on the table; the last drop of power; all my best,” said MATIUNINA.

ZAHARIA saved one match ball in the sixth game before Ukraine's player won the decisive one.

“I wanted to stay calm because I knew if I let my emotions out, I will lose. I stayed focused.”

MATIUNINA left Ukraine two years ago.

“Because of the war, I left home two years ago and I am in Germany now. I am practicing in Munich with Krisztina TÓTH. She helped me to improve. I am thankful to her, to all my coaches that supported me here, and to all my team,” stated Veronika.

In the semi-final, Hana ARAPOVIC was halted in her attempt to defend the crown as Elena ZAHARIA proved too strong (11-9, 4-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-8, 11-8). Focused and almost emotionless, ZAHARIA was set on victory.

“I know ARAPOVIC since the ‘hopes’ matches and the time when we were 13-14 years old. That is why I know that I must play for each ball. I also fought against myself. I put all my negative emotions low, and I tried to use all the positivity I have. The pressure was very high. She was the reigning champion here, and we were in the semis; there was no place for a mistake,” said ZAHARIA.

In the other penultimate stage match, Veronika MATIUNINA overcame Poland's Anna BRZYSKA in six games (9-11, 10-12, 11-7, 12-10, 11-7, 14-12).

“I feel incredibly good; I didn’t really expect this. I started from the first stage and lost one match; in the groups, I placed second, and I was already thinking that I do not play so good, but I just got better and better. This is an unbelievable result; I didn’t expect to come to the final, and there is no secret at all, it’s just hard work, just practice, practice. Big thanks to my coach who works with me and all the supporters from Ukraine, the coaches here. Thanks to all, really.

In the semi-finals, there was not that much tactics; I just played, but I played more to the opponent’s forehand because when she plays with the backhand and pimples, it was very uncomfortable for me. The last set I was 10:6 down, but I came to 11:10, 12:11, and I was very nervous because of that. I get really shaken, and iron, but I am really happy to win this match,” said MATIUNINA.