by Simon Daish
Saki Shibata heads to Minsk as the defending Women’s Singles champion having defeated the host nation’s Viktoria Pavlovich in the 2016 final, but the Japanese competitor could face a difficult road ahead as she enters the 2017 event seeded eighth.
Japan will be the main favourites to capture the gold medal in the category with seven of the top 10 seeded players representing the country in the Women’s Singles tournament.
The top seed is Hitomi Sato, who will be hoping to improve on her semi-finals finish achieved at the 2016 Belarus Open where she lost out to the eventual champion Saki Shibata.
Hanoka Hashimoto occupies the second seeded position and will therefore avoid the qualification rounds alongside other Japanese representatives seeded in the top 16 positions: Misaki Morizono, Miyu Kato, Maki Shiomi, Saki Shibata, Marina Matsuzawa and Kyoka Kato.
Arguably the host nation’s strongest hope for success in the Women’s Singles draw is Viktoria Pavlovich, with the Belarusian being seeded sixth for the event.
Pavlovich, 38, came close to giving the home fans something to celebrate at last year’s competition when she reached the final, but an in form Shibata prevented Belarus from winning the title for the first time since 2008. Will 2017 be Pavlovich’s year?
Four Russian contestants have been seeded for the main draw as Polina Mikhailova, Maria Dolgikh, Yana Noskova and Yulia Prokhorova travel to Minsk.
12 Russian competitors reached the Women’s Singles main draw at the 2016 competition, one of whom was Yana Noskova, who suffered a fifth game defeat to Yuka Ishigaki at the quarter-finals stage.
Noskova enters the 2017 Belarus Open seeded 13th for the competition, and so a similar outcome to last year’s campaign will be considered as a positive result for the 23-year-old from Russia.
The three other seeded player for the Women’s Singles tournament are Poland’s Katarzyna Grzybowska-Franc, Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz and Rachel Moret of Switzerland who are seeded 10th, 15th and 16th respectively.