01 Apr 2018

Disciplined performances, in control of emotions, Korea’s Kim Minhyeok and Japan’s Saki Shibata emerged worthy winners of the respective Under 21 Men’s Singles and Under 21 Men’s Singles titles at the 2018 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open in Gualalajara on Sunday 1st April.

At the final hurdle, each succeeded without the need for a dramatic deciding seventh game; Saki Shibata, the no.5 seed beat colleague Hitiomi Sato, the top seed, in six games (11-5, 11-9, 11-6, 13-15, 6-11, 11-7), before Kim Minhyeok brought the tournament to a conclusion by overcoming Austria’s Robert Gardos, to seal the title.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager

Success for Saki Shibata meant that she departed Guadalajara the most successful player in the whole tournament; the previous day she had won the Under 21 Women’s Singles event, beating Korea’s Kim Youjin in the final (11-2, 11-8, 11-6).

Meanwhile, for Kim Minhyeok, it was the end of a long journey. He had started his quest for honours four days earlier in the qualification tournament; overall he played eight matches to secure the title.

The Men’s Singles finalists (left) Robert Gardos, the runner up, (right) Kim Minhyeok, the winner (Photo: Alvaro Diaz)


Furthermore, you can add another six to that number. Partnering Cho Eonrae, the duo, having likewise started their campaign in the qualification tournament, finished in runners up spot in the Men’s Doubles event. On the concluding day of play, they were beaten at the final hurdle by colleagues An Jaehyun and Cho Seungmin, the top seeds (11-8, 11-9, 11-3, 11-4).

Success for Cho Seungmin and like Saki Shibata, he departed Guadalajara with two titles to his name; the previous day, he had won the Under 21 Men’s Singles title beating Germany’s Tobias Hippler in the final (11-9, 11-6, 11-4).

Finalists in the Men’s Doubles event (left to right) Kim Minhyeok, Cho Eonrae, An Jaehyun, Cho Seungmin (Photo: Alvaro Diaz)


Meanwhile, for Hitomi Sato, there was a degree of consolation, partnering Honoka Hashimoto and occupying the top seeded position in the competition the duo won the Women’s Doubles title, the opening contest on the concluding day’s schedule. In the title deciding contest they overcame Luxembourg’s Sarah de Nutte and Ni Xialian (11-8, 11-7, 11-4).

Success for Korea, success for Japan; all three male titles finished in Korean hands; all three female gold medals around Japanese necks.

Play in Guadalajara concluded, attention now turns to Otocec; the 2018 ITTF Challenge Slovenia Open commences with the qualification tournament on Monday 2nd April.

The Women’s Doubles podium (left to right) Sarah de Nutte, Ni Xialian, Honoka Hashimoto), Hitomi Sato (Photo; Alvaro Diaz)
Challenge Series Saki Shibata Hitomi Sato Honoka Hashimoto Cho Seungmin An Jaehyun Kim Minhyeok

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