by Simon Daish
Penultimate Round Success Seals Title For Japan
Seeded fifth in the Women’s Singles draw Saki Shibata has somewhat outperformed expectations, booking her spot in the final with another strong display on day two.
Victorious earlier in the day against Luxembourg’s Ni Xialian and fellow Japanese contestant Honoka Hashimoto (11-5, 11-7, 11-6, 11-3), Saki Shibata sealed her place in the gold medal contest with a narrow seven games win over unseeded Korean opponent Yoon Hyobin in the last four (6-11, 11-9, 14-12, 11-5, 9-11, 7-11, 11-9).
Awaiting Shibata in the final is a player she knows very well with no.1 seed Hitomi Sato progressing through the top half of the draw.
Hitomi Sato suffered a massive scare in her opening fixture of the day, requiring the full seven games distance to see off Lee Zion (11-9, 8-11, 9-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-6) before earning a quarter-finals success against sixth seed Matilda Ekholm (11-9, 11-6, 11-6, 11-2). The top seed then fought back from a three games to two deficit to prevail in her semi-finals clash with Georgina Pota (11-6, 10-12, 8-11, 13-11, 13-15, 11-7, 11-8).
Qualifier Guarantees Top Two Finish
Required to compete in the two-day qualification tournament ahead of the 2018 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open but Korea’s Kim Minhyeok is now just one win away from the Men’s Singles.
Coming out on top against the no.5 and no.11 seeded players Ng Pak Nam and Yuki Matsuyama, Kim Minhyeok went on to add Cho Seungmin’s name to the list of scalps with a six games victory over the third seed (11-7, 5-11, 11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 11-8).
The other player set to appear in the final is second seed Robert Gardos; the Austrian representative negotiated a tough semi-finals match against Iran’s Nima Alamian (11-9, 10-12, 11-5, 11-8, 15-13) to extend his campaign by a further day.
First Champions Crowned
Both Under 21 finals were decided in straight games with Korea Republic’s Cho Seungmin and Japan’s Saki Shibata claiming the first silverware on offer in Guadalajara.
Top seed Cho Seungmin proved too strong for surprise finalist Tobias Hippler, defeating the German player with a commanding display to lift the Under 21 Men’s Singles trophy (11-9, 11-6, 11-4). Saki Shibata, seeded second, accounted for Korean qualifier Kim Youjin in the Under 21 Women’s Singles final (11-2, 11-9, 11-6).