by Ian Marshall, Editor
Both wins were as status advised; Emmanuel Lebesson occupied the top seeded position, Hina Hayata was just once place below, the second seed.
Success for Emmanuel Lebesson was hard earned and well earned; on the concluding day of play at the semi-final stage he recovered from a two games to nil deficit to beat China’s Xu Yingbin by the very narrowest of margins (6-11, 5-11, 11-6, 7-11, 11-3, 11-4, 11-9). The victory thus brought to an end the 16 match winning steak of the 18 year old, which had started on Wednesday 16th October and four days later had resulted in the ITTF World Tour Polish Open title being secured.
Narrow margins but for the 2016 European champion, a major confidence boost; in the final he beat Japan’s Yukiya Uda, the no.7 seed and quarter-finalist earlier this in Portugal, to seal the title. Impressively Emmanuel Lebesson succeeded in four straight games (12-10, 12-10, 13-11, 11-5) and thus to an extent extracted national revenge. In the corresponding semi-final, Yukiya Uda had ended the hopes of Tristan Flore, the no.12 seed (10-12, 11-7, 11-8, 11-5, 11-6).
Thus the 31 year old Frenchman secured his first ever men’s singles title on either the ITTF World Tour or at an ITTF Challenge Series tournament; his previous best being a semi-final finish in 2012 in Brazil and 2017 in the Czech Republic. Notably earlier this year he was a quarter-finalist in Oman,
Moreover, he becomes the first Frenchman to win an ITTF Challenge Series men’s singles title since the concept became an entity in its own right in January 2017, as opposed to being part of the ITTF World Tour.
He joins four fellow Frenchmen who have enjoyed success at open international tournaments since the ITTF World Tour started in 1996. In 1997 Christophe Legout won on home soil in Lyon, the following year Damien Eloi succeeded in Sweden, before in 2013 Abdel-Kader Salifou enjoyed a halcyon year prevailing in Croatia, Egypt and Morocco. Later in 2016 Antoine Hachard claimed gold in Chile.
Tense moments for Emmanuel Lebesson, for Hina Hayata there were moments of concern but not of great drama; she succeeded on the last day of play without the need for a deciding seventh game.
After accounting for colleague, Honoka Hashimoto, the no.4 seed (9-11, 11-4, 11-4, 11-8, 11-13, 11-9), she secured the title at the final expense of Chinese qualifier, Fan Siqi (8-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-5, 7-11, 13-11), a player in form. At the semi-final stage she had ousted colleague, Zhang Qiang, the no.24 seed (11-9, 9-11, 4-11, 11-4, 11-8, 11-9), the third round winner the previous day in opposition to Japan’s Saki Shibata, the top seed (11-5, 11-7, 11-8, 11-7).
Most successful of all
Gold for Hina Hayata and no less than her seventh such success at an open international tournament. In 2016 she won on the ITTF World Tour in Australia, before at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments succeeding in 2017 in Spain and now in 2019 on no less than five occasions.
In February she won in Portugal prior to succeeding in Oman, Serbia, Paraguay and now Belarus. The win means that since January 2017, Hina Hayata in now the most successful of all.
She surpasses Saki Shibata who has won five times overall and four times in one year. In 2017 she won in Belgium before in 2018 succeeding again in Belgium, as well as in Belarus, Croatia and Spain. Hina Hayata is now one ahead of her colleague having won on six occasions overall and five times in one year.
Disappointment in the women’s singles event for Saki Shibata, unable to repeat last year’s victory but success in the women’s doubles when once again partnering Satsuki Odo; the title won in 2018 retained.
At the final hurdle, the top seeds, they beat Poland’s Ana Wegrzyn and Katarzyna Wegrzyn in four games (7-11, 11-5, 11-4, 11-5). Moreover, it was their fifth career ITTF Challenge Series title. In addition to Belarus, they prevailed in 2018 in Belgium, earlier this year they succeeded in Oman and Thailand.
Also it means they match colleagues Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato who likewise since January 2017 have five such titles to their credit.
Adding to the collection, for Xu Haidong and Zhao Zhaoyan it is a case of starting the collection; at the final hurdle of the men’s doubles event, they accounted for fellow qualifiers the Japanese partnership formed by Hiroto Shinozuka and Kakeru Sone (15-13, 11-7, 11-7).
It was for both pairs first ever men’s doubles final at an international tournament, either apart or as a pair.
Play concluded in Minsk, attention on the ITTF Challenge Series schedule now turns to Batam in Indonesia; proceedings commence with qualification on Wednesday 13th November.