by Simon Daish
Taking on the unseeded Takako Nagao in the last four, Japan’s Honoka Hashimoto put in a positive showing at the beginning of the final day at the Palace of Tennis in Minsk.
Hashimoto made a quick start to the match claiming the opening two games to establish an early lead, but Nagao fought back and her capture of the third end narrowed the scoreline to 2-1.
However, Nagao wasn’t able to take advantage of the momentum shift and Hashimoto stepped up her performance to take back-to-back games to seal a 4-1 victory (11-8, 11-8, 11-13, 11-6, 11-7).
“I’ve never got to the final matches in the competitions of such level before. The semi-final encounter was a challenge for me, my opponent kept attacking aggressively, trying to remove me from the position. When I got to attack, I succeeded. The final game is going to be hard, for I never have enough confidence when playing with defenders”, Honoka Hashimoto.
Top seed Hitomi Sato is also through to the final of the Women’s Singles draw following her success over Saki Shibata in the semi-finals.
Saki Shibata was defending champion heading into the concluding day of the tournament and was aiming to pick up the title for the second successive year.
Yet, despite claiming the opening game in the last four encounter, Shibata struggled to restrict her opponent as Sato recovered well.
Four consecutive game wins followed for Sato as the no.1 seed thundered her way through to the final stage of the event (7-11, 11-4, 11-5, 17-15, 11-8) where she will face Hashimoto for the title.
“That’s the first time that I’ll play finals in Minsk. At this tournament, I put the most of my power in attacks, because it’s hard to resist the strong players on full defence. My play is steady and stable. I think my chances to win in the finals are high”, Hitomi Sato.
Watch the 2017 ITTF Challenge Belgosstrakh Belarus Open unfold, follow the action live with itTV