by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Liu Shiwen is the top seed in the Women’s Singles event; a total of 12 ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles titles to her credit, three times the winner at the Grand Finals when on each occasion in the title deciding contest beating colleague Ding Ning, plus a record four times the winner of the Women’s World Cup, the curriculum vitae speaks for itself.
There are many other accolades that can be added but, whatever the final list reads, it is on a different planet to all others present in the Thai capital city.
It is an understatement to suggest that a tough task faces the two players who contested the Women’s Singles final in Thailand just over a year ago, when an all Japanese affair saw Hitomi Sato beat Honoka Hashimoto, the two defenders are once again present being the respective second and third seeds.
Liu Shiwen is no mean performer against defence; a fact Hitomi Sato found out earlier this year at the quarter-final stage at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Platinum Series Qatar Open. Somewhat surprisingly Liu Shiwen lost the opening game; she didn’t lose the next four! It was one-way traffic.
Arguably, the best chance of success for Hitomi Sato and Honoka Hashimoto is in the Women’s Doubles event where they are the reigning champions; they are the top seeds ahead of the host nation’s Orawan Paranang and Suthasini Sawettabut.
A challenge for honours from Japan but does their best challenge come from Saki Shibata? She is the no.4 seed in the Women’s Singles event ahead of colleagues Yui Hamamoto and Maki Shiomi.
One month ago not only did she win the Women’s Singles title at 2018 ITTF Challenge Croatia Open, pertinently she also won the Under 21 Women’s Singles title, the relevance of the latter was that it was four in a row.
After winning on the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour in Germany, she succeeded in Spain, Slovenia and Croatia. Now in Thailand she aims for an unprecedented five in succession!
Singapore’s Yu Mengyu and the host nation’s Suthasini Sawettabut complete the top eight Women’s Singles names; for both as with everyone on duty, there is one conclusion, a quite daunting challenge is presented.