by Simon Daish
Former Champion Returns
Eight seeds will go straight to the main draw, and one of those players is Viktoria Pavlovic who will lead the Belarusian charge to the title.
Pavlovich won the trophy at the first Belarus Open in 2008 when she defeated Poland’s Yan Xiaoshan with a 4-0 scoreline, but Pavlovich was eliminated at the Round of 16 the very next year and hasn’t competed at the Open since.
Seeded fourth for the 2016 competition, Pavlovic will be expecting to go far and with the home crowd on her side there is potential for a successful campaign in Minsk.
Silverware for Russia?
Russian competitors could be in for some joy come the end of the Open, with Anna Tikhomirova, Yulia Prokhorova and Yana Noskova all seeded in the top ten.
Though none of the above mentioned players have ever won a World Tour Women’s Singles gold, all three are well placed to take full advantage if any major upsets occur.
The Women’s Doubles is another category that Russia could excel in, with the country having appeared in four finals so far in 2016.
Japan Tops the List
Despite a strong European lineup at the Belarus Open, Japan have to be considered favourites for the Women’s Singles title with three of their players taking all of the top three seeding positions.
For the third World Tour tournament running Hitomi Sato heads the seedings and will be hoping to put her early defeats at the Bulgaria and Czech Opens behind her.
Yuka Ishigaki is the second seed and will be looking to build on her Bulgaria Open success with another trophy in Minsk, while Honoka Hashimoto (third) will be fighting for her first ever World Tour crown following on from her semi-finals finish at the Czech Open last week.
Point to Prove
Away from the seeds, there are players competing at the 2016 Belarus Open also hoping to demonstrate their skill on the table.
Song Maeum of Korea Republic heads into the competition off the back of a quarter-finals loss at the Czech Open, while Saki Shibata (Japan) aims to carry forward her strong performance shown at the recent Under 21 events to the Senior category.
Another Japanese player Maki Shiomi, was fantastic in Olomounc (Czech Republic) taking the runners-up spot in the Women’s Singles draw; can the teenager replicate or even better the second place finish at the Belarus Open?