Tournaments

03 Dec 2019

Located in the Greater Toronto Area, Markham is no stranger to international tournaments, in 2015 it was the destination for the table tennis events at the Pan American Games; once again the city is journey’s end, it is the home for the Benemax-Virgo 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus, North American Open.

Play commences with a two day qualification tournament on Wednesday 4th December.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

A new destination for an open international tournament, however, there is nothing new about the names of the players.

To date 13 ITTF Challenge Series tournaments have been staged this year, in the women’s singles event, five winners are present in Markham; that may not at first sight appear a large percentage but when you take into consideration they own nine of those titles, the picture changes dramatically.

Japan’s Hina Hayata, who won in Oman, Portugal, Serbia, Paraguay and Spain, seeks an incredible sixth success. Likewise colleagues Hitomi Sato and Miyu Kato are on duty, Hitomi Sato won in Thailand, Miyu Kato succeeded in Spain. Also, the name of Russia’s Polina Mikhailova, the winner in Nigeria, appears on the entry list, as does that of Portugal’s Shao Jieni, she prevailed in Indonesia.

Favourites for gold, not according to seeding in an event dominated by Japan; the Land of the Rising Sun occupies seven of the top eight seeded places.

Polina Mikhailova seeking to repeat Nigerian success (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Interloper

The interloper is the host nation’s Zhang Mo, a player with a special affinity for the city; in 2015 she won the women’s title at the North America Cup.

She is the no.6 seed. Kasumi Ishikawa is the top seed, ahead of Miu Hirano; they are followed by Hitomi Sato, Miyu Kato and Hina Hayata. Saki Shibata and Honoka Hashimoto complete the top eight names.

Both Polina Mikhailova and Shao Jieni are further down the order, a fact that reflects the quality of the tournament; Polina Mikhailova is the no.13 seed, Shao Jieni, the no.24 seed.

Zhang Mo heads the hopes of the host nation (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Secured podium top step

Similarly, in the men’s singles event there are players present who earlier this year have reserved the top step of the podium at Challenge Series tournaments. Frenchman, Emmanuel Lebesson, who won in Belarus is listed, as is England’s Paul Drinkhall, successful in Serbia. Similarly, hot foot from the NSDF World Junior Championships in Thailand, the name of Xu Yingbin, the winner in Poland, is set to extol his skills.

A quick pack of the bags for Xu Yingbin, it is exactly the same for Japan’s Koki Niwa, quarter-finalist at the recent Chengdu Airlines 2019 ITTF Men’s World Cup. He is the top seed, named ahead of Emmanuel Lebesson, India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta and Belgium’s Cédric Nuytinck.

Winner on the ITTF World Tour in 2015 in Croatia and Spain, also from Japan, Maharu Yoshimura is the no.5 seed. He is followed by Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic, Slovakia’s Lubomir Pistej and Frenchman Can Akkuzu.

Koki Niwa is the men’s singles top seed (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Different partners

Success, it is the same in the men’s doubles. Brazil’s Eric Jouti won in Slovenia, Argentina’s Horacio Cifuentes in Poland.

Both appear on the entry list in Markham but with different partners, instead of Gustavo Tsuboi the partner for Eric Jouti is Thiago Monteiro; for Horacio Cifuentes it is Santiago Lorenzo as opposed to Gaston Alto.

Eric Jouti and Thiago Monteiro occupy the no.2 seeded spot, Horacio Cifuentes and Santiago Lorenzo occupy the no.7 position. Runners up earlier this year in Croatia, Belgium’s Martin Allegro and Florent Lambiet are the top seeds.

Runners up in Croatia, Martin Allegro (left) and (right) Florent Lambiet, occupy the top seed spot in Markham (Photo: Robert Valai)
Barbora Balazova

Five time winners as a pair at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments, Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato occupy the top seeded spot in the women’s doubles event.

Notable success but no title as a duo this year; in Oman and Croatia they had to settle for runners up spot. The combination of Slovakia’s Barbora Balazova and the Czech Republic’s Hana Matelova, set for next week’s ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, reserve the no.2 seeded position.

Likewise the name of Barbora Balazova appears prominently in the mixed doubles. Partnering compatriot Lubomir Pistej, runners up at the ITTF Challenge Series tournament in Portugal, pertinently also qualified for the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, they occupy the top seeded spot. Next in line is the Serbian partnership of Aleksandar Karakasevic and Izabela Lupulesku.

Barbora Balazova (left) and (right) Lubomir Pistej are the mixed doubles top seeds (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Same scenario

Medallists at 2019 Challenge Series tournaments; the same scenario appears in the under 21 men’s singles, Horacio Cifuentes won in Spain and Paraguay. Likewise, in the under 21 women’s singles, Japan’s Maki Shiomi also enjoyed success in Paraguay, as did Romania’s Andreea Dragoman in Nigeria.

Again the quality of the tournament is displayed; Maki Shiomi is the top seed but Andeea Dragoman is somewhat lower down the order.

She is the no.7 seed, one place ahead of Nadezhda Bogdanova of Belarus. Sandwiched in between, India’s Archana Girish Kamath is the no.2 seed followed by Daria Trigolos, also from Belarus, Spain’s Zhang Sofia-Xuan, Hungary’s Leonie Hartbrich and Russia’s Mariia Tailakova.

Maki Shiomi is the under 21 women’s singles top seed (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Leading names

Meanwhile, in the under 21 men’s singles, Horacio Cifuentes is the no.6 seed, the next in the order being Frenchman Jules Rolland and Spain’s Joan Masip. However, note the name of the no.9 seed, China’s Xiang Peng, the winner of the boys’ singles title at the recent NSDF World Junior Championships.

Russia’s Denis Ivonin, India’s Manav Vikash Thakkar and Bastien Rembert, also from France and the runner up this year in Slovenia and Spain, occupy the respective top three seeded places. Next on the list is the Belgian duo of Florian Cnudde and Laurens Devos.

Overall 88 men and 76 women appear on the entry list.

Horacio Cifuentes won in Spain but is the no.6 seed in Markham (Photo: Alvaro Diaz)
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Day 3 - 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Benemax-Virgo North American Open