by Ian Marshall, Editor
Four wins this year for Hina Hayata and you can add one more to her career total, in 2017 she won in Spain; now can she become the most successful ever since January 2017 when the Challenge Series became a concept in its own right as opposed to part of the ITTF World Tour?
The one player who may prevent that happening is compatriot, Saki Shibata, in Wladyslawowo she is the no.2 seed and likewise has five such titles to her name but none this year. In 2017 she won in Belgium before in 2018 retaining the crown and then succeeding in Spain, Croatia and Belarus.
Aspirations but the one name in particular who could dent those hopes is the top seed, China’s He Zhuojia; making her debut on the ITTF Challenge Series, significantly she ended last year by securing the silver medal at the 2018 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, before earlier this year experiencing the same finish in Bulgaria.
Notably, the winner earlier this year in Slovenia, Hungary’s Georgina Pota, is the no.4 seed, followed by Japan’s Honoka Hashimoto, Polina Mikhailova, Britt Eerland of the Netherlands and Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut. Earlier this year Polina Mikhailova won in Nigeria, Honoka Hashimoto succeeded in Croatia; her one success in eight finals, she has been the runner up on no less than seven occasions.
South American challenge
Meanwhile, in the men’s singles event, Panagiotis Gionis of Greece, the winner Croatia in 2017 and 2018 heads the order. Next on the list is Ukraine’s Kou Lei followed by the South American contingent of Paraguay’s Marcelo Aguirre, Brazil’s Thiago Monteiro and Mexico’s Marcos Madrid. Also from the southern hemisphere is Argentina’s Horacio Cifuentes, he is the no.8 seed behind Romania’s Cristian Pletea and Poland’s Jakub Dyjas.
Belgium’s Martin Allegro and Florent Lambiet occupy the top seeded spot in the men’s doubles event, in the women’s doubles the elite position belongs to Saki Shibata and colleague Satsuki Odo. In the under 21 men’s singles event to top name is Russia’s Denis Ivonin, for the women the leading player is Audrey Zarif of France.