by Simon Daish
Named as the no.1 seeded player for the Men’s Singles event, Kou Lei understandably heads into the tournament as the big favourite to lift the trophy but will the Ukraine athlete make a clean start and get the better of up-and-coming Polish teenager Maciej Kubik in the Round of 64?
Runner up in the ITTF Challenge Series event in De Haan, Yukiya Uda faces a tricky start to life in Minsk with the Japanese player facing off against a most worthy adversary in Russia’s Alexander Shibaev while second seed Kirill Skachkov, also Russian, meets Patryk Zatowka.
The third seeded player for the tournament, Iran’s Nima Alamian has been drawn to play Germany’s Gerrit Engemann in the opening round and no.4 seed Lubomir Pistej of the Slovak Republic takes on Japan’s Koyo Kanamitsu.
Chasing a fourth singles gold medal of the year second seed Saki Shibata, placed at the foot of the draw, has been handed an opening round fixture against Korea Republic’s Lee Yearam in the the Women’s Singles tournament – at the summit of the draw top seed Zhang Mo encounters Julia Szymczak.
Impressive in the qualification stage, 15-year-old Elizabet Abraamian will be hoping to cause somewhat of an upset in round one of the main event when she goes head-to-head with no.27 seed Audrey Zarif and another battle to keep an eye on sees exciting young stars from Japan and Germany take to the table as Satsuki Odo and Chantal Mantz meet.
The host nation has three representatives contesting the opening round of the Women’s Singles draw: Daria Trigolos, the highest seeded Belarusian on duty in the category, opens her campaign against Russian qualifier Maria Malanina while Nadezhda Bogdanova and Alina Nikitchanka face opposition from Korea Republic’s Kim Haeun and Japan’s Miku Izumo.