25 Aug 2016

Winner earlier in the year in Zagreb, Hitomi Sato leads the field in the Women’s Singles event at the forthcoming Asarel 2016 ITTF World Tour Bulgaria Open, play commencing in Panagyurishte on Wednesday 24th August.

Making her eighth ITTF World Tour appearance of the year, she leads a field where her Japanese colleagues are very much in evidence and the art of defence prevalent.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Seven of the eight top seeds are from the Land of the Rising Sun, with the one interloper being a defensive player; the conclusion is that four of the elite names are those who extol the backspin art.

The Exception

In addition to Hitomi Sato, whose defensive skills have won no less than eight ITTF World Under 21 Women’s Singles titles in the past two years, colleagues Yuka Ishigaki and Honoka Hashimoto, alongside Russia’s Polina Mikhailova complete the backspin quartet with Honoka Hashimoto being the odd one out.

She is the one member of the group yet to win an ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles title; the no.6 seed, her career best is a quarter-final finish earlier this year in both Australia and Croatia. Notably in the latter it was Polina Mikhailova, who ended adventures.

The no.4 seed in Panagyurishte, like Hitomi Sato and Yuka Ishigaki, Polina Mikhailova has an ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles title to her credit. In 2012 she won in Minsk; two years earlier, Yuka Ishigaki, the no.2 seed, had won in Egypt.

Women’s Doubles

Prominent in the Women’s Singles event, Hitomi Sato, Yuka Ishigaki and Polina Mikhailova are also very much in the spotlight in the Women’s Doubles competition.

Polina Mikhailova alongside Russian colleague, Maria Dolgikh, the winners earlier this year in Slovenia, occupy the top seeded spot. Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato reserve the second seeded place in the competition; likewise they have enjoyed success this year. In June they won in Australia.

Familiar Name

Familiar names on the ITTF World Tour; however there is none more familiar than that of Miyu Kato, the no.3 seed in the Women’s Singles event, the top seed in the Under 21 Women’s Singles competition.

Much travelled, she is making no less than her 10th appearance of the year. Winner of the Under 21 Women’s Singles title in Hungary and Poland; it was arguably in Australia that she enjoyed her greatest success. In addition to winning the Under 21 Women’s Singles title, she reached the penultimate round in the Women’s Singles event.

Make Presence Felt

Similarly, familiar faces, Misaki Morizono, Miyu Maeda and Sakura Mori complete the leading names on duty in both the Women’s Singles event.

However, all have yet to make their presence felt in this year’s ITTF World Tour. The best for Misaki Morizono, the no.5 seed in Panagyurishte, is a third round exit, a departure experienced in Hungary, Poland and Slovenia.

Meanwhile, for Miyu Maeda, the no.7 seed, who in 2014 in Chile won both the Women’s Singles and Under 21 Women’s Singles events, this year she has yet to negotiate the opening round in an ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles event.

Equally, for Sakura Mori, the no.8 seed, she has not really excelled, her best this year is a quarter-final exit in Australia.

Best Chance

Both Miyu Maeda and Sakura Mori are contenders for honours in the Women’s Singles event but arguably their best chance of a podium finish is in the Under 21 Women’s Singles competition where they are the respective second and third seeds, behind Miyu Kato.

Also, similar to Miyu Kato and Miyu Maeda, Sakura Mori has enjoyed ITTF World Tour Under 21 Women’s Singles success; in 2014 she won in both Belarus and on home soil in Japan.

Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz, on duty at the recent Rio 2016 Olympic Games, completes the top four names in the Under 21 Singles event.

World Tour Bulgaria Open Hitomi Sato