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Following in Footsteps of John Hilton, Masato Shiono Defies Odds
By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Masato Shiono defied the odds at the ITTF World Tour Japan Open  Photo By: Monthly World Table Tennis

06/23/2013        GAC Group 2013 ITTF World Tour, Japan Open, Super Series (Click here to access this section)

Beaten in the qualification group stage of proceedings by China’s Ma Te, through to the main draw by virtue of gaining second place in the group, the host nation’s Masato Shiono was the shock winner of the Men’s Singles title at the ITTF World Tour Japan Open in Yokohama on Sunday 23rd June 2013.

At the final hurdle he beat China’s Xu Chenhao, a fellow qualifier, in four straight games (11-3, 11-8, 11-6, 11-4).
Currently listed at no.188 on the Men’s World Rankings, the 27 year is one of lowest, if not the lowest ever ranked player to win an ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles title.

In Yokohama, there were 51 players with a higher World ranking than Masato Shiono!

Compares with Englishman
A defensive player who can change from backspin play to attack, his win compares with the incredible success of England’s John Hilton in 1980.

He combined backspin play with controlled attacking play to win the Men’s Singles title at the European Championships in Berne in 1980.

Controversial Selection
An insurance salesman at the time, he was a controversial selection, in an age when the colour on each side of the racket had to be the same, in the case of John Hilton black, he twiddled his racket to good effect with a combination of reversed rubber and anti-spin mesmerising his opponents.

Almost not selected, he gained the last available place in the team; he won the title at odds of 1,000 to 1!

What Odds?
In Yokohama, I wonder one week ago what odds you would have received on Masao Shiono winning the Men’s Singles title at the ITTF World Tour Japan Open, the same as those of John Hilton?

Changes in Spin
Over 30 years ago the subtle changes effected by John Hilton caused havoc; of course times have changed.

The two sides of the racket must be different colours, red and black but equally the changes in spin imparted by Masato Shiono, varying degrees of backspin, varying degrees of top spin brought success.

First Title
“I was so surprised to win the event because I have never won a title in Japan before, let alone an event of this size”, said a dazed Masato Shiono. “Since I have not played on the world stage, players did not know my style of play which helped me, my opponent in the final had a lot of pressure, as he was playing for China, I did not feel the pressure at all.”

Surely that should be the other way around; was Masato Shiono not under pressure as he was playing on home soil and was the more experienced player? Xu Chenhao is only 18 years old.

Blushes for Selectors
Not considered for the Japanese National Team at the recent LIEBHERR World Championships, Masato Shiono had surely made the selectors sit up and note; in fact they did not consider entering him for the proceedings in Yokohama!

Paid Entry Fee
“I even had to pay the entry fee myself to play”, he added. “I am going to enter the United States Open in July and try to prove that this was not a fluke and I really belong on the world stage.”

Well at least he can afford the entry fee for the United States Open; in Yokohama he won US$16,000!