by Simon Daish
Penultimate round claims major scalps
Starting the day off was semi-finals action from the two singles events with the two penultimate round fixtures from the Men’s Singles tournament both producing upsets.
One of the star names of the previous day but for Romania’s Cristian Pletea the last four signalled the end of his title hopes with unseeded Japanese opponent Shunsuke Togami claiming a superb 4-0 win (15-13, 11-3, 11-8, 12-10) and there were similar scenes in the other semi-final as no.4 seed Lubomir Pistej exited to Chinese qualifier Zhao Zihao (8-11, 11-3, 9-11, 11-6, 11-4, 9-11, 11-9).
Over in the Women’s Singles semi-finals Japan’s Miyuu Kihara lost out to Russian defender Polina Mikhailova across five games (8-11, 11-7, 11-6, 11-4, 11-9) while second seed Saki Shibata held the edge over no.5 seed Minami Ando (12-10, 10-12, 11-7, 13-11, 7-11, 11-7) in an all-Japanese affair.
Excellent teamwork, Japanese partnerships prevail
Then it was time for the first gold medal contests of the day with pairs representing Japan emerging victorious in the two doubles finals.
Successful at the ITTF Challenge Series event in Belgium three weeks ago, Satsuki Odo and Saki Shibata came away with their second Women’s Doubles trophy of the month after posting a thunderous 3-0 win against top seeded opponents Barbora Balazova and Hana Matelova of the Slovak Republic and Czech Republic (11-3, 11-4, 11-7).
At the final hurdle of the Men’s Doubles tournament, Kakeru Sone and Yuta Tanaka saw off Ukraine’s Kou Lei and Croatia’s Wei Shihao (11-7, 11-9, 13-15, 11-7) to reserve their place at the top of the podium.
Qualifier to champion
Finishing off the day’s line-up was the two singles finals, the first of which came in the Women’s Singles draw: Saki Shibata, who won the title in Minsk two years back, once again celebrated success on Belarusian soil with a 4-0 victory over Russia’s Polina Mikhailova (11-4, 11-7, 12-10, 11-7) handing the Japanese player her fourth ITTF Challenge Series Women’s Singles title of the year.
However, the biggest story was reserved until last as Zhao Zihao rounded off a wonderful Men’s Singles campaign with the trophy in his possession. Making the slower start to the final but the Chinese qualifier eventually found his rhythm, defeating Japan’s Shunsuke Togami 4-2 (11-13, 11-6, 11-5, 11-8, 10-12, 11-4) to leave his first ITTF Challenge Series event with two titles to his name having prevailed in the Under 21 Men’s Singles one day earlier.