by Ian Marshall, Editor
On the ITTF World Tour, Hitomi Sato won in 2016 in Croatia, Saki Shibata in the same year in Belarus; one year later, Sakura Mori prevailed in India.
Likewise, at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments, in 2017, Hitomi Sato struck gold on three occasions, including Thailand. Also in the same year Honoka Hashimoto succeeded in Croatia as did Saki Shibata in Belgium. The win proved a springboard for Saki Shibata; in 2018 she excelled; she secured three titles in addition to qualifying for the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
Now, in 2019, the picture is somewhat different; the best for Hitomi Sato is a semi-final finish on Oman, for Saki Shibata the quarter-finals in Portugal and Croatia. Slightly better for Honoka Hashimoto it is runners up spot in Portugal but conversely for Sakura Mori, her best is third round departures in both Oman and Serbia.
In Bangkok, Hitomi Sato is the top seed followed by Saki Shibata and Honoka Hashimoto; next in line is the host nation’s Suthasini Sawettabut, followed by Satsuki Odo, Maki Shiomi and Sakura Mori.
Yet to clinch an open international tournament women’s singles title but the records this year of Satsuki Odo, in particular, match those of her illustrious colleagues. The best for Maki Shiomi is a third round exit in Oman and Croatia; however, last week in Croatia Satsuki Odo reached the semi-final round.
Also, this year, Satsuki Odo does have a title to her name; in Oman she partnered Saki Shibata to women’s doubles gold; notably at the final hurdle overcoming Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato, the holders of five ITTF Challenge Series women’s doubles titles.
At the Seamaster 2019 ITTF Challenge Thailand Open, Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato occupy the top seeded spot; Satsuki Odo and Saki Shibata are the next in line.
Evidence and numbers point to Japanese success and could they have one problem in their quest for gold, each other!