by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
She is the no.4 seed in the Women’s Singles competition, the top seed being Hitomi Sato followed by the player in form, Miyu Kato also from Japan and Romania’s Elizabeta Samara. Notably just four days ago Miyu Kato emerged successful in Slovenia.
Somewhat conversely for Hitomi Sato the task is the regain the title, she was crowned Women’s Singles champion in 2016 in Zagreb but despite winning last year in Belarus, Slovenia and Thailand, she has yet to enjoy the same success this year.
A wait for another Women’s Singles title at an open international tournament; for Elizabeta Samara the wait is even longer; three ITTF World Tour titles to her credit, her most recent success was just over three years ago when in 2015 she won in Qatar.
All are major contenders for gold but if there is one player who could halt the aspirations of the top four names, it is Saki Shibata, also from Japan, the no.5 seed. At the recent ITTF Challenge Spanish Open in Guadalajara she beat Hitomi Sato in the Women’s Singles final, whilst in Under 21 Women’s Singles events she is setting unprecedented records. In Zagreb, she is seeking a fourth consecutive such title. She won in Germany on the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour and then followed up with Challenge Series wins in Spain and Slovenia.
In Zagreb in the Under 21 Women’s Singles event she is the top seeds ahead of colleagues Maki Shiomi, Miyuu Kihara and Asuka Sasao.
Notable names from Asia, from Europe, in addition to Elizabeta Samara, colleague Bernadette Szocs, successful earlier in the year at the Europe Top 16 tournament is on duty, as is Hungary’s Georgina Pota, the winner on the ITTF World Tour in both 2014 and 2016 in Belgium.
Bernadette Szocs is the Women’s Singles no.6 seed and partners Elizabeta Samara in the Women’s Doubles event where they are the no.4 seeds; Georgina Pota is next in the order of merit to Bernadette Szocs and is the Women’s Doubles no.2 seed in harness with Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm.
Maki Shiomi completes the top eight Women’s Singles names; the one further pair amongst the leading Women’s Doubles combinations is that of Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova and the Czech Republic’s Hana Matelova. Runners up recently in Poland, they are the no.3 seeds.