by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
A first for Honoka Hashimoto, it is one step higher than in Belarus and Thailand, two steps higher than last week in Slovenia.
On both occasions when she has reached the final she lost to her compatriot Hitomi Sato; in Belarus, she was beaten in five games (11-9, 11-2, 11-8, 5-11, 11-4); in Thailand by a similar margin (9-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5, 11-8). Meanwhile, in Slovenia, it was a straight games defeat in the semi-final when opposing Hungary’s Georgina Pota (11-9, 11-7, 12-10, 11-8).
“I’m so excited now! It is one of my most beautiful days, really. In one hour I have won a tournament both in doubles and single competition, great.” Honoka Hashimoto
Fine performances on the ITTF Challenge Series by Honoka Hashimoto; also on the Seamaster ITTF World Tour; notably in Korea, she beat the host nation’s Suh Hyowon in the opening round (8-11, 12-10, 11-3, 11-13, 11-3, 11-6), before losing to a familiar face in the guise of her colleague Minami Ando (11-5, 11-13, 11-4, 11-5, 11-6).
The overall outcome is that in the past year she has made most noteworthy progress on the Women’s World Rankings; one year ago in May 2016 she was at no.50, now she occupies the no.22 spot.
Success for Honoka Hashimoto, defeat for Sofia Polcanova but there is a crumb of comfort; other than Liu Jia, she is the only Austrian player ever to reach a Women’s Singles final on either the ITTF World Tour or the ITTF Challenge Series.
Li Jia has reached a total of 11 such finals, winning on four occasions and she has one factor in common with Sofia Polcanova; in 2004 she advanced to the final in Zagreb, she was beaten by Korea’s Kim Kyungah.
Now 13 years later it was déjà vu.