Tournaments

19 Nov 2018

Successful six years ago, Russia’s Polina Mikhailova kept her hopes of the regaining the Women’s Singles title at the 2018 ITTF Challenge Belgosstrakh Belarus Open in Minsk very much alive on the morning of Sunday 18th November.

The no.6 seed, she accounted for Miyuu Kihara, the no.15 seed (8-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-4, 11-9) and thus prevented the possibility of all Japanese final. She was followed by Saki Shibata, the no.2 seed, also a former winner, she won in 2016, who overcame colleague Minami Ando, the no.5 seed (12-10, 10-12, 11-7, 13-11, 7-11, 11-7).

by Ian Marshall, Editor

One day earlier, Miyuu Kihara had beaten Maria Dolgikh, like Polina Mikhailova a defender and from Russia in four straight games (11-9, 11-9, 11-4, 11-6); against Polina Mikhailova life was very different.

After losing the opening game Polina Mikhailova found a rhythm to her play, establishing a balance of when the focus on backspin play and when to take the opportunity to attack. Increasingly confident after securing the second game, the Russian dominated the third and fourth games but in the fifth was tesyed as Miyuu Kihara, gradually adjusting to Polina Mikhailova variations, mounted a spirited recovery.

However, at the vital times the more experienced 32 year old stood firm, a place in the final was reserved.

Success for Polina Mikhailova against a player she had never faced before, in the counterpart semi-final the situation was very different; members of the same national team, Saki Shibata and Minami Ando were no strangers. Equally they were no strangers on the international scene, in 2017 they had met on three occasions in Under 21 Women’s Singles events, Saki Shibata had prevailed in Thailand and in China, Minami Ando had succeeded in the Korea Republic.

In Minsk, there was little to choose, the one vital factor no doubt being that that there is now a great sense of belief in the mind of Saki Shibata, having earlier in the year succeeded in Women’s Singles events at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments in Croatia, Spain and most recently in Belgium. Success in the close fourth game was vital, Minami Ando recovered to secure the fifth but Saki Shibata was not to be denied; the sixth game and a place in the final was secured.

The final will be played later in the day.

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Challenge Series 2018 Belarus Open Saki Shibata Miyuu Kihara Polina Mikhailova Minami Ando
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Day 4 - 2018 ITTF Challenge Belarus Open