by Simon Daish
First Senior Title for Japanese Star
19-year-old Saki Shibata has shown impressive form in the recent World Tour Under 21 competitions, having won the title at the Asarel Bulgaria Open and finishing in second place at the Czech Open and here at the Belarus Open. Now the Japanese star has been able to carry her ability into the Senior event.
Belarus were hoping to secure the Women’s Singles gold at their home tournament for the first time since 2008, and with Viktoria Pavlovich representing them in the final, the fans dared to dream big.
However, it was not to be in the end to the disappointment of the home spectators as Shibata demonstrated just how powerful her attacking game can be.
After the conclusion of game three it was Pavlovich who held the upper hand and looked the more likely of the two finalists to take the match, but how quickly momentum can swing as Shibata picked up back-to-back games to move 3-2 ahead.
Then a deciding end looked to be on the horizon as Pavlovich sailed into a 3-8 lead; however, Shibata made a great recovery to steal the sixth game and subsequently seal the trophy (11-8, 7-11, 5-11, 11-8, 14-12, 11-9).
“It was a very intense and tough match for me. We’ve played lots of enduring rallies and I had to do my utmost in order to control the situation. The last set has been especially hard. I’m just happy with having won the final, especially since it’s the first time that I have won a tournament of such calibre.” – Saki Shibata (Japan).
Possible Japanese Contenders for Tokyo 2020?
The next Olympic Games aren’t for another four years, but Japan will be keeping a watchful eye on possible additions for their next Olympic squad and success on the World Tour could prove invaluable for the players hoping to break into the team.
Three of the semi-finalists in Minsk came from Japan with Hitomi Sato and Yuka Ishigaki competing alongside Saki Shibata, and with the likes of Maki Shiomi and Honoka Hashimoto also starting to enter the frame, the chances of at least one of these players competing at the home Olympic Games are, at the very least, likely.
Sunday 11th September: Women’s Singles – Main Event