by Simon Daish
Seeded seven spots below the Romanian player Elizabeta Samara, Honoka Hashimoto of Japan knew heading into the match to expect a tough challenge from her rival who had defeated the 4th seed Doo Hoi Kem in the previous round but Hashimoto’s belief that she could reach the last four of the Open was enough to send her through to the final day of the tournament in Linz.
Samara was crowned European Women’s Singles champion at the Liebherr 2015 European Championships in Ekaterinburg where she defeated Dutch player Li Jie in a dramatic final, and with Samara having come out on top against Hashimoto in their previous encounter at the 2016 Belgium Open the odds were very much in the Romanian’s favour at the 2016 Austrian Open.
The quarter-finals match in Linz was going according to plan for Samara who after making a positive start to the tie raced into a comfortable 0-2 lead, yet despite having the games advantage on her side Samara would fail to move through to the last four as Hashimoto not only managed to level proceedings but go on to steal a 4-2 win with four consecutive ends going her way (9-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-4, 11-5, 11-7).
Mima Ito awaits Hashimoto in the bottom half of the semi-finals draw with Japan now guaranteed to see one of their players in the final; second seed Ito had the difficult task of trying to block out the excitement from the roaring Austrian fans who were backing the host nation’s Sofia Polcanova for the win, yet the crowd was left somewhat disappointed as Olympic record holder Ito cruised to a 4-1 victory (11-8, 7-11, 11-4, 11-5, 11-8) moving to within two wins from another World Tour gold medal.
Yui Hamamoto successfully added the Under 21 Women’s Singles trophy to her name on the fourth day in Linz and will compete in the last four of the Women’s Singles event on day five where she will face Korea Republic’s Choi Hyojoo.
With two of Japan’s representatives going head-to-head in one semi-finals match and Hamamoto taking part in the other clash, could an all-Japanese final potentially be on the cards?
Saturday 12th November: Women’s Singles – Main Draw