by Simon Daish
Two rounds will be contested in both the Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles events with places in the penultimate stage up for grabs.
Keeping the dream alive, two Belarusians will appear in the Round of 16 of the Men’s Singles – in the lower half of the draw fifth seed Aliaksandr Khanin will attempt to bring Chinese qualifier Zhao Zihao’s strong campaign to a halt while in the upper section fellow host nation colleague Pavel Platonov faces seeded opposition in the form of Japan’s Yuki Matsuyama.
With the top two seeds both officially out of the running, Nima Alamian is the highest seeded player left standing but on Day Three the Iranian representative will need to be at his best if he is to extend his run with young Romanian star Cristian Pletea awaiting the no.3 seed. The player seeded directly below, fourth seed Lubomir Pistej has been handed a tie with no.22 seed Antoine Hachard.
Minami Ando and Hana Matelova are set to do battle in an exciting Women’s Singles contest for the second time in the space of 10 days with the two having met in the qualification tournament which preceded last week’s ITTF World Tour event in Linz: the Japanese player prevailed by a 4-1 score-line over her Czech counterpart on that occasion but will we see the same outcome in Minsk?
So far Saki Shibata has enjoyed a relatively straightforward outing in Minsk but in the Round of 16 she faces what is arguably her first major test with Ukraine’s Ganna Gaponova, seeded ninth, providing the opposition for the second seed – the winner will go on to face either no.8 seed Satsuki Odo or no.11 seed Barbora Balazova in the evening session of play.
Two head-to-head encounters between fellow compatriots are set to be contested in the last 16 as Miyu Kato and Sakura Mori meet in an all-Japan affair while Russia’s Polina Mikhailova and Yana Noskova also fight it out for national pride.
The first gold medals of the tournament will be handed out in Minsk as the two Under 21 categories draw to a close and the two doubles events also feature on Day Three with quarter-finals and semi-finals action.