by Ian Marshall, Editor
Patience was very much the order of the day for Saki Shibata; Polina Mikhailova won the first two points of the opening game, Saki Shibata levelled at 3-all, the stage at which she seized control, she surrendered just one further point, the controlled forehand top spin play, the ball travelling a safe distance over the net brought success time and time again.
The contest was very similar to that against China’s Wu Yang, arguably the best defensive player in the world, when she had emerged successful just over two weeks ago at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open in Stockholm. Simply, play consistently, don’t rush, keep in control of your emotions.
Impressive in the opening game, following the same pattern of play, as against Wu Yang, it was success in the ensuing games; consistent top spin play, predominantly directed towards the body of Polina Mikhalova, wait for the chance to arise and then a fast top spin stroke to end the point reaped dividends.
Determined in the third game, Polina Mikhailova did pose problems for Saki Shibata, proceedings were level at 9-all; to her credit Saki Shibata remained calm, she won the next two points to establish a clear lead.
In the fourth game Saki Shibata went ahead 5-1, at 10-5 she held five game points, she converted at the third attempt, the title was regained.
Success in Minsk means that Saki Shibata collected her fourth ITTF Challenge Series Women’s Singles title of the year. Earlier she had won in Croatia, Spain and Belgium; totally unprecedented.
Additionally Saki Shibata has qualified for the US$ 1,000,000 Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals to be held next month in Incheon, Korea Republic.