by Ian Marshall, Editor
Seeking to find a rhythm to her play, Saki Shibata did not make the best of starts; in the opening game Honoka Hashimoto established a 5-3 lead. It was at that stage the rhythm was found, Saki Shibata levelled at 6-all, losing just one more point before gaining success.
Focusing her strong forehand top spin strokes predominantly towards the backhand of Honoka Hashimoto; in the second game, Saki Shibata controlled matters from start to finish. Earlier adversaries had not been able to penetrate the Honoka Hashimoto defensive wall; Saki Shibata possessed the power.
Honoka Hashimoto had to take risks, the risk being to attempt the forehand top spin option but when executed the blocking skills of Saki Shibata proved secure. In the third game, opting for the attacking option, Honoka Hashimoto gained a degree of success; she went ahead 6-3 but could not build on the advantage, she won just one more point.
Saki Shibata now in total control, in the fourth game, at 10-5 she held five match points; she duly converted and thus added a second title to her collection. Earlier she had partnered Satsuki Odo to Women’s Doubles success.
“It was important to defend my title here in Belgium. Last year I won one title, now two. Especially about our performance in doubles I was very happy. This was only the third time that we played together; that’s good for the future. I won many Challengers, now it’s time to win a major or a platinum event. For that I will have to beat Chinese players. Of course I am focused for the Olympics. I hope to be part of the Japanese team in Tokyo.” Saki Shibata
Success for Saki Shibata meant that she secured her third ITTF Challenge Series Women’s Singles title of the year; earlier she had won in Croatia and Spain.
Overall it was her fifth such success, in 2017 in addition to winning in De Haan, she had won in Poland. Previously in 2016, also a Challenge Series tournament, when at that time part of the ITTF World Tour, she had won in Belarus.