12 Nov 2019

Yogyakarta the venue in September for the ITTF Asian Championships, now two months later in the world's largest island country, attention moves some one thousand miles to the north.

Batam is the home for the inaugural 2019 ITTF Challenge Indonesia Open; play in the five day tournament starts with qualification on Wednesday 13th November.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Indonesia may not be a familiar destination for international tournaments, Batam may not be the name of one of the world’s most well-known cities but the players who head the list are most familiar; note the name of Japan’s Maki Shiomi.

If rankings were produced in terms of endeavour then the 19 year old would head the order; this year, commencing on Wednesday 20th March with the ITTF Challenge Oman Open, to date she has played in nine tournaments on the ITTF World Tour and six Challenge Series events. Quite incredibly, when play concludes in Batam on Sunday 17th November, she will have competed in no less than 16 open international tournaments in a period of 35 weeks! Almost one every two weeks!

At the 2019 ITTF Challenge Indonesia Open, she is the no.3 seed in the women’s singles event, the under 21 women’s singles top seed, the latter an event in which this year she has enjoyed success; she won in Paraguay.

Suthasini Sawettabut is the women’s singles top seed (Photo: Panichar Junkana)
Aiming to make a mark

Top seed in the women’s singles event is Thailand’s Suthasini Sawettabut followed by Portugal’s Shao Jieni; India’s Madurikha Patkar completes the top four names. Similarly, Suthasini Sawettabut has travelled far and wide this year; she has competed in six ITTF World Tour tournaments, Indonesia will be her fourth Challenge Series stop.

Impressive in junior days but Suthasini Sawettabut has yet to make her mark on the senior international scene; her best being a semi-final appearance in 2017 in Croatia. However, she has formed a most successful women’s doubles partnership with colleague, Orawan Paranang; this year they were semi-finalists on home soil in Bangkok and in Poland. In Batam they are the top seeds ahead of Madhurika Patkar and compatriot Archana Girish Kamath.

Notably, earlier this year Madhurika Patkar was women’s singles runner up at the Commonwealth Championships in Cuttack; she is listed one place ahead of Archana Girish Kamath who could well have a busy time in Indonesia. Also she is the no.2 seed in the under 21 women’s singles competition, named ahead of teammate Selena Selvakumar and Korea Republic’s Kang Dayeon.

Worthy names but of the leading female players on duty, in particular note Shao Jieni; she is the one with ITTF World Tour success to her name. She won in Nigeria in 2015 and in 2016.

It could well prove a busy time for Archana Girish Kamath (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Florent Lambiet top seed

Familiar faces, it is no different for their male counterparts. Belgium’s Florent Lambiet heads the men’s singles seeding followed by India’s Harmeet Desai, Portugal’s João Monteiro and colleague Martin Allegro.

To date Florent Lambiet has been present this year at six ITTF World Tour tournaments and six Challenge Series events; in all but the Australian Open when pairing with Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic, in men’s doubles he has partnered Martin Allegro.

Both are yet to advance to the men’s singles medal rounds but in men’s doubles they are very much a potent force. The top seeds in Batam ahead of Hong Kong’s Kwan Man Ho and Lam Siu Hang; notably the Belgians were semi-finalists in Oman and Poland, runners up in Croatia.

Martin Allegro (left) and (right) Robert Valai, an increasingly potent men’s doubles force (Photo: Robert Valai)
Aiming for first title

Seeking their first ITTF Challenge Series titles, it is the same for the ever faithful João Monteiro, men’s doubles bronze medallist earlier this year in partnership with Tiago Apolonia at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest. Likewise, Harmeet Desai, semi-finalist in 2007 in Zagreb, seeks his first such title; he is a major contender for honours in the men’s singles event and also in the men’s doubles, he occupies the no.3 seeded position alongside colleague Amalraj Anthony.

However could the name to note be that of Frenchman, Antoine Hachard? He is the one player in the men’s singles event with an ITTF World Tour title to his name; he won in 2016 in Chile.

A strong challenge from India, it is the same in the under 21 men’s singles; Manav Vikash Thakkar is the top seed followed by Iran’s Amir Hossein Hodaei. Earlier this year, Manav Vikash Thakkar was a semi-finalist in Oman, Amir Hossein Hodaei, the runner up in Nigeria.

Overall a total of 57 men and 47 women will compete in Batam.

Always total commitment, Manav Vikash Thakkar is the under 21 men’s singles top seed (Photo: courtesy of Hong Kong Table Tennis Association Ltd)
Challenge Series 2019 Indonesia Open Maki Shiomi

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Day 3 - 2019 ITTF Challenge Indonesia Open