by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
The top seed, the fact suggests that Hitomi Sato is the favourite for Women’s Singles gold but the assumption is questionable; the player in current good form is her compatriot, Saki Shibata, the no.5 seed, the player against whom Hitomi Sato experienced defeat in the final at the recent 2018 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open.
Furthermore, Saki Shibata is in search of three titles in three weeks; additionally in Spain she won the Under 21 Women’s Singles event, having some nine days earlier succeeded at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour German Open in Bremen.
In Otocec, Saki Shibata is the no.2 seed in the Under 21 Women’s Singles competition behind Hong Kong’s Minnie Soo Wai Yam, a young lady who has come close to securing such a title but has on more than one occasion fallen short. In Spain she was beaten by Korea’s Kim Youjin, the adversary Saki Shibata beat in the final.
However, the potential opponent on whom Saki Shibata may keep an eye is Puerto Rico’s Adriana Diaz, the player against whom she suffered defeat in last year’s Under 21 Women’s Singles final. Adriana Diaz is the no.8 seed in the Women’s Singles event and the no.5 seed in the Under 21 Women’s Singles competition; events which witness Japanese players present in force.
Miyu Kato, Sakura Mori and Honoka Hashimoto complete the top four Women’s Singles names, whilst one place above Adriana Diaz is Maki Shiomi; additional to the Puerto Rican the interloper is Minnie Soo Wai Yam. She is the no.6 seed.
Contenders for honours but note names lower down the order; Luxembourg’s Ni Xia Lian, Germany’s Sabine Winter and Hungary’s Szandra Pergel have all won ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles titles.
Meanwhile, in the Women’s Doubles event, the names of Minnie Soo Wai Yam, Szandra Pergel and Ni Xia Lian are prominent. Minnie Soo Wai Yam and colleague Ng Wing Nam occupy the second seeded position; they are followed by Szandra Pergel and team mate Dora Madarasz with Ni Xia Lian and Sarah de Nutte completing the top four pairs.
Likewise, as in the Women’s Singles event, the name of Maki Shiomi is prominent; she is the no.3 seed, one place ahead of compatriot, Miyuu Kihara.
Play commences in the qualification tournament with the Under 21 Men’s Singles and Under 21 Women’s Singles events.