by Simon Daish
May 22nd 2008 was the first time that the ITTF World Tour had visited Belarus, and what a fantastic debut competition it turned out to be.
Viktoria Pavlovich and Vladimir Samsonov gave the host nation something to celebrate about, defying the odds to win the Women’s and Men’s Singles titles respectively for Belarus.
Yan Xiaoshan (Poland) was beaten in four straight games by Pavlovich, while Samsonov stood victorious over Xu Xin (China) with a 4-1 triumph.
The World Tour returned to Minsk the following year, and unlike the previous rendition of the event, the 2009 format included Men’s and Women’s Doubles and Under 21 categories.
Zolst Peto (Serbia) was the standout player at the tournament, shocking everyone involved by winning the Men’s Singles gold despite coming to within a game from elimination in the majority of his main draw matches.
Korea Republic’s Dang Yeseo required a mighty comeback in her Women’s Singles last four match against Liu Jia (Austria), winning three games in a row to reach the final where she defeated Li Xue of France 4-0.
Three Year Wait
The Belarus Open wouldn’t be hosted for another three years, until it was agreed that the country would return to the World Tour calendar in 2012.
Russia took the 2012 event by storm, sealing both of the Singles trophies through Vasily Lakeev and Polina Mikhailova. There was however an all-Belarusian final, as Alina Arlouskaya got the better of Lizaveta Karasiova across five ends.
Back-to-Back Singles Titles Unattainable?
2013’s Belarus Open oversaw once again the failed attempts to defend a title, with Lakeev and Mikhailova both exiting before the final.
Japan’s Kohei Sambe, aged 16 at the time was the exciting talent to come out of the Open after he won the Under 21 title and finished as the runner-up in the Men’s Singles competition to fellow countryman Kaii Yoshida.
There was also a debut title at the 2013 Belarus Open, as Germany’s Sabine Winter overcame home favourite Alexandra Privalova (Belarus).
Leading Name Returns
Minsk had been treated to many wonderful Table Tennis battles by 2014, but success from the hosts had come in small quantities and they hadn’t won the Senior prizes since the inaugural event in 2008.
Belarusian legend Vladimir Samsonov made his second appearance at the tournament, and there was only one goal in mind: to win another gold medal, a target he achieved with ease only dropping two ends across the entire draw.
The Women’s Singles was dominated by Japan; all four of the vacant semi-final spots were filled by Japanese players, with Sayaka Hirano winning back-to-back encounters in seven ends on her way to glory.
Finally in the line of past Belarus Opens is 2015’s contest. Denmark’s Jonathan Groth and Kasper Sternberg made history by becoming the first Danish pair to win a Men’s Doubles final, and Li Ping (Qatar) became the first player from a Gulf State to secure a Men’s Singles title.
Mima Ito picked up her second World Tour crown in the Women’s Singles draw after a clean sweep victory against Misako Wakamiya, and Japan also managed to lockout the Women’s Doubles final with Miyu Maeda and her partner Sakura Mori doing the honours.
Hitomi Sato edged fellow compatriot from Japan Miu Hirano 3-2 in the Under 21 Women’s Singles title match, and Belgium’s Florent Lambiet took home Europe’s sole trophy at the 2015 competition, powering past Leonardo Mutti (Italy) 3-0.