by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In 2015 Japan’s Hitomi Sato secured five Under 21 Women’s Singles titles on the ITTF World Tour; now this year she has won the Women’s Singles event at three consecutive ITTF Challenge Series tournaments.
She won in Belarus, Thailand and most recently in Slovenia; now she heads for a fourth; the 19 year old is the top seed in the Women’s Singles event at the forthcoming ITTF Challenge Series Zagreb Open which commences in the Croatian capital city on Tuesday 2nd May.
Furthermore amongst the leading names on duty in the Women’s Singles event, she is very much the player in form. Sweden’s Li Fen, who earlier this year won the Swiss Open and was not present last week in Slovenia, is the no.4 seed; for the remaining principal names, the visit to Otocec was not a bed of roses.
Hitomi Sato’s doubles partner, Honoka Hashimoto, the player she overcame in the Women’s Singles finals in Belarus and Thailand is the no.2 seed; in Slovenia she was beaten at the semi-final stage by Hungary’s Georgina Pota, the adversary Hitomi Sato was to beat in the final.
The defeat was arguably no great surprise; Georgina Pota is ever improving against the defensive art.
However, Romania’s Elizabeta Samara, the no.3 seed in Zagreb, alongside Russia’s Polina Mikhailova, Austria’s Sofia Polcanova, Japan’s Saki Shibata and Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut, the players who complete the top eight names, it was defeat in opposition to lower ranked adversaries.
Polina Mikhailova, Sofia Polcanova and Saki Shibata all lost to Korean adversaries; Lee Eunhye ended the hopes of Sofia Polcanova in round two and Saki Shibata in the following round. Meanwhile, in round three Polina Mikhailova was beaten by Park Joohyun, whilst in the same round, the progress of Elizabeta Samara was halted by Chinese Taipei’s Cheng Hsien-Tu, the adventures of Suthasini Sawettabut by Britt Eeerland of the Netherlands.
Notably the names of Lee Eunhye and Park Joohyun appear on the Zagreb entry list.
Success for Hitomi Sato in all three 2017 ITTF Challenge Series tournaments to date but the doubles record in harness with Nonoka Hashimoto is somewhat chequered. The top seeds on all three occasions, they won in Thailand but in Belarus but suffered a quarter-final exit at the hands of Chinese Taipei’s Lin Chia-Hsuan and Lin Po-Hsuan, before in Slovenia being beaten one round later by the combination of Romania’s Elizabeta Samara and Renata Strbikova.
Neither of the pairs against whom they experienced defeat appears on the Zagreb entry list. Russia’s Polina Mikhailova and Olga Vorobeva occupy the no.2 seeded position; they are followed by Chinese Taipei’s Lee I-Chen and Liu Hsing-Yin with Germany’s Chantal Mantz and Wan Yuan completing the names of the top four pairs.