by Simon Daish
Amazing run ends for Korean ace
Living up to expectations, defending champion Saki Shibata booked her spot in the Women’s Singles final after the top seed successfully recovered from a one-game deficit to beat no.4 seed Miyu Nagasaki across five games (12-14, 12-10, 11-5, 12-10, 12-10) in the opening encounter of the day.
However, the question on everyone’s lips was whether or not 14-year-old Korean star Shin Yubin could extend her fantastic run and reach the final?
Beginning her journey in the two-day qualification tournament, Shin Yubin went on to achieve main draw victories over Satsuki Odo, Matilda Ekholm and Nina Mittelham but in the semi-finals the teenager’s incredible campaign was halted by the ever-consistent Honoka Hashimoto (11-4, 11-9, 11-6, 7-11, 7-11, 11-9).
Belgian hopes dashed
The opening Men’s Singles fixture of the day saw two qualifiers going head-to-head for a spot in the final – while there was disappointment for Korea Republic earlier in the morning with Shin Yubin’s elimination, there was positive news to follow as Park Ganghyeon produced a fine performance to see off German opponent Qiu Dang in straight games (11-8, 11-6, 11-6, 12-10).
Exiting at the semi-finals stage last year but this time out Japan’s Yukiya Uda wouldn’t suffer the same fate, claiming a 4-0 win over the host nation’s Cedric Nuytinck (11-8, 11-6, 13-11, 13-11) to break the hearts of the Belgian supporters.
Contrasting fortunes for Japanese partnerships
Seeded two positions lower than the opposition, Satsuki Odo and Saki Shibata, no.4 seeds, upset the order in the first title match of the day. The Japanese team accounted for Luxembourg’s Sarah De Nutte and Ni Xia Lian 3-0 (15-13, 12-10, 11-4) to capture the Women’s Doubles prize in De Haan.
Hoping to emulate their fellow compatriots but Kakeru Sone and Yuta Tanaka were forced to settle for a silver medal finish in the Men’s Doubles draw after the Japanese duo lost out to Korea’s An Jaehyun and Cho Seungmin (11-4, 9-11, 13-11, 11-5) at the final hurdle.
Victorious earlier in the year at the ITTF Challenge Series event in Spain, this is the second time that An Jaehyun and Cho Seungmin have combined to success in 2018. For Satsuki Odo and Saki Shibata it was their first gold medal of the year as a partnership.
Winner last year, champion once again
Following strong outings in the morning session of play, Saki Shibata and Honoka Hashimoto faced off in the penultimate fixture of the day in an all-Japanese Women’s Singles final.
Seeded first and third respectively, Saki Shibata and Honoka Hashimoto were expected to engage in a tight contest for the title but as the match played out it was clear that one player held the distinct advantage. With four game wins to her name and no response from her opponent (11-7, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5), Saki Shibata once again held the trophy aloft in De Haan.
Last, but certainly not least, it was time for the Men’s Singles final as Korea’s Park Ganghyeon and Japan’s Yukiya Uda met in a thrilling seven games duel.
Unseeded for the competition, Park Ganghyeon stormed out of the gates to establish a commanding 3-0 lead in the final but dramatically found himself up against the ropes as Yukiya Uda hit back with three game wins of his own to level the score at 3-3. The no.20 seed from Japan then held a Championship Point in the game seven, however, three consecutive points in the opposite direction handed his Korean counterpart a dramatic 4-3 victory (14-12, 11-8, 11-9, 11-13, 7-11, 8-11, 12-10).
Saving match point to level the score at 10-10, 🇰🇷 Park Ganghyeon showed nerves of steel to capture the 2018 #ITTFChallenge Belgium Open Crown 4-3 against Yukiya Uda 🇯🇵🏆
🇯🇵Odo/Shibata 3-0 De Nutte/Ni🇱🇺
🇰🇷An/Cho 3-1 Sone/Tanaka🇯🇵
🇯🇵Shibata 4-0 Hashimoto🇯🇵 pic.twitter.com/QL6EFjJnrs
— ITTF World (@ittfworld) October 27, 2018