by Ian Marshall, Editor
Winner last year in Slovenia, she is charged with the task of maintaining national pride; no national association has a better women’s singles record at an open international tournament in Spain than Japan.
A member of the ITTF World Tour, the tournament always being staged in Almeria, in 2011 the inaugural year, Sayaka Hirano beat Hong Kong’s Jiang Huajun to claim the title. Three years later Miu Hirano reached the final losing to Sweden’s Li Fen, a situation that applied to Sayaka Hirano in 2015. She finished in runners up spot, losing to Korea Republic’s Jeon Jihee.
However, since the Challenge Series became a separate entity and not part of the ITTF World Tour; the verdict has always gone in favour of the Land of the Rising Sun. Once again Almeria the home, in 2017 Hina Hayata beat Jeon Jihee to secure the title; last year an all Japanese final witnessed success for Saki Shibata in opposition to Hitomi Sato.
A repeat in 2019 with Japanese players contesting the first prize; is it a realistic option? Note the name Ayane Morita; she is the one further player on duty in the women’s singles event from the country that has an ever greater depth of talent.
In recent times she has not experienced the international exposure enjoyed by the likes of Miyu Kato; currently the 22 year old is listed at no.544 on the women’s world rankings; she must compete in the qualification tournament.
However, beware, like Miyu Kato, Ayane Morita is a player in form; four months ago in early December at the Finlandia Open in Lohja, she partnered colleague Saki Seyama to women’s team gold before in a most imposing manner securing the women’s singles title.
An all Japanese women’s singles final, a long shot, more a possibility.