by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Hitomi Sato, the top seed, accounted for Hungary’s Georgina Pota, the no.3 seed, emerging successful in seven games (11-6, 10-12, 8-11, 13-11, 13-15, 11-7, 11-8); a contest that underlined the willpower and strong mind of the Hungarian.
Georgina Pota will readily admit that defensive players are not her favourite cup of tea, she is much more comfortable in fast close the table counter attacking exchanges.
However, compared with just under one year ago when the pair met on Sunday 30th April in the Women’s Singles final at the 2017 ITTF Challenge Slovenian Open, a vast improvement was witnessed in Guadalajara. In Otocec, Hitomi Sato won in straight games (11-8, 13-11, 11-9, 11-6).
Victory a narrow margin for Hitomi Sato, it even closer for Saki Shibata, the no.5 seed, in opposition to Korean qualifier, Yoon Hyobin; she won by the very narrowest of decisions in the deciding seventh game (6-11, 11-9, 14-12, 11-5, 9-11, 7-11, 11-9).
A close call but if willpower and mental toughest are in question, in the case of Saki Shibata physical fitness and sheer fortitude must be added.
It was her third match in the Women’s Singles event. Earlier in the day partnering Satsuki Odo in the Women’s Doubles event, the pair had emerged successful at the quarter-final stage before Satsuki Odo had to withdraw injured after the first game of the semi-final. Meanwhile, to add the icing to the cake, Saki Shibata completed three matches in the day to win the Under 21 Women’s Singles title.
Overall, Saki Shibata played in every match possible on the penultimate day of action; a total of eight matches; that must be a record!