by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Successful in Panagyurishte, Kasumi Ishikawa was also successful in the Bulgarian city two years ago; in the final, the top seed, she beat colleague Ai Fukuhara to secure the title.
Now two years later, she will most definitely hope that the success is not a bad omen when the Czech Republic is considered.
In 2015, just as now, she was the top seed in the Women’s Singles event; after overcoming Britt Eerland of the Netherlands by the very narrowest of seven game margins in the second round, she was beaten by Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching. Certainly losing to Cheng I-Ching was not an upset of massive proportions but it was a contest in which Kasumi Ishikawa started the clear favourite. She had won their most recent four prior encounters.
Equally, one year earlier any hopes of a final place were denied. She was beaten by Romania’s Elizabeta Samara, the eventual winner.
Notably Elizabeta Samara appears on the 2017 entry list; in the Women’s Singles event, she is the no.7 seed and is one of two former winners on duty this year. The other is Viktoria Pavlovich of Belarus; she won in 2013 when beating Li Jiao of the Netherlands in the final. However, if in 2017 she is to repeat the task it will be a long journey; she must compete in the qualification tournament.
Pleasant memories for Elizabeta Samara and Viktoria Pavlovich but as with Kasumi Ishikawa, the leading names on duty in the Women’s Singles event this year have yet to really blossom in Olomouc.
Germany’s Han Ying, the no.2 seed, has come close; in 2013 she departed at the quarter-final stage, losing to Li Jiao, in 2015 she was beaten in the penultimate round by the champion elect, Ai Fukuhara.
Meanwhile, for Japan’s Mima Ito and Hitomi Sato, the players who complete the top four names; a place in an Olomouc final has never accrued.
Last year Hitomi Sato reached the semi-finals of the Women’s Singles event, losing to Monaco’s Yang Xiaoxin, the eventual winner. The best for Mima Ito is round two when in 2014 and 2015, on both occasions she was beaten by colleague Yuka Ishigaki; of course when considering Mima Ito, age must be taken into account. She is only 16 years old.
Likewise for Japan’s Honoka Hashimoto is the no.5 seed, Germany’s Petrissa Solja, the no.6 seed and Sakura Mori also from Japan, the player who completes the top eight names, a Women’s Singles final place has been denied.
One year ago Honoka Hashimoto reached the semi-final stage losing to colleague Maki Shiomi, this year the no.15 seed; one round earlier in 2016 Sakura Mori was beaten by Yang Xiaoxin in the quarter-finals.
Petrissa Solja was not present last year but she has enjoyed success in Olomouc; not necessarily in the Women’s Singles event but in 2013 she was the Under 21 Women’s Singles runner up, the following year the winner.
In 2013 she was beaten in the final by Japan’s Yui Hamamoto. Now four years later there may be a chance of revenge; Yui Hamamoto is the Women’s Singles no.13 seed.