Tournaments

07 Dec 2019

Present in force; that is Japan in the women’s singles event at the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Benemax-Virgo North American Open in Markham; notably, they commenced play occupying seven of the top eight seeded positions.

On Saturday 7th December, when the quarter-finalists where decided, they had reserved five of the last eight places.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Significantly, Kasumi Ishikawa, Miu Hirano and Hitomi Sato, the respective top three seeds all progressed, the three players present in the Greater Toronto city that will be on duty in Zhengzhou at the forthcoming Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.

Likewise, Miyu Kato, the no.4 seed advanced.

Kasumi Ishikawa and Miyu Kato both beat Chinese opponents to book their quarter-final places. Kasumi Ishikawa accounted for Zhang Qiang, the no.27 seed (11-7, 11-4, 11-9, 11-9), Miyu Kato overcame qualifier Leng Yutong (6-11, 11-5, 11-1, 13-11, 11-6).

Results to note

Wins as anticipated but such is the reputation of China, the incredible depth of talent, added to the fact their players are accustomed to practising in the same environment as Olympic and World champions, one always takes note of their results.

Undoubtedly, Kasumi Ishikawa and Miyu Kato performed in a most creditable manner; that fact was endorsed when looking back one day to the first round. Colleagues, Hina Hayata and Saki Shibata, between them the owners of no less than 11 ITTF Challenge Series women’s singles titles, suffered at the hands of Chinese qualifiers.

Hina Hayata, the no.5 seed, was beaten by Guo Yuhan (11-13, 11-7, 11-4, 11-5, 11-5), Saki Shibata, the no.7 seed, lost to Yang Huijing (9-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-9, 11-7).

Miu Hirano

Somewhat differently, Miu Hirano reserved her last eight place by overcoming Ukraine’s Margaryta Pesotska (11-4, 8-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-9) but note well; the previous day she had accounted for Chinese adversaries in the guise of Qi Fei (12-10, 15-13, 3-11, 11-6, 11-7) and Zhang Binyue (11-5, 11-6, 10-12, 11-6, 11-5).

Most certainly Matt Hetherington, the Media and Communications Director for USA Table Tennis was impressed.

“Speed was a key factor for the likes of top seeded Kasumi Ishikawa and second seeded Miu Hirano. Early backhand timing and impeccable transition speed between strokes have helped them overcome many top contenders already.” Matt Hetherington

Defenders advance

Success for the top spin attacking players from Japan in the third round of the women’s singles event; it was the same from the defensive duo of Hitomi Sato, the no.3 seed and Honoka Hashimoto, the no.8 seed.

Both halted Russian progress. Hitomi Sato accounted for Polina Mikhalova, the no.13 seed and winner earlier this year in August at the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus, Nigeria Open (9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-6, 11-13, 11-7, 11-7); rather less dramatically Honoka Hashimoto ended the adventures of Yana Noskova (11-2, 11-9, 11-8, 11-6).

Just as Kasumi Ishikawa and Miu Hirano attracted the attention of Matt Hetherington, so did Hitomi Sato.

“By far the most thrilling match of the round of 16 was that of Hitomi Sato and Polina Mikhailova, two defensive players working their way to a full seven game encounter. Mikhailova dazzled the growing crowd of spectators by changing her defence for powerful forehand attacks and sharp backhand punches with her short pimple side. On occasions she was able to combine attacking strokes to hit through Sato, who skipped around the court defending valiantly.

Sato wove sidespin into her defense, curling the ball trajectory as she moved Mikhailova around the opposite side of the table. Her defence was solid, a major factor in her being able to stay strong in the match. As the final showdown loomed, Sato’s footwork was textbook, covering the distance from the table to the back barriers and out wide. Mikhailova continued to press the attack when opportunities were created but Sato continued to execute fearless defence. Match point came and Sato took the win straight away.” Matt Hetherington

At the quarter-final stage both Kasumi Ishikawa and Miyu Kato meet Chinese qualifiers, Kasumi Ishikawa faces Wang Xiaotong, Miyu Kato opposes Li Jiayi. In the adjacent half of the draw it is Hitomi Sato versus Germany’s Nina Mittelham, the no.16 seed, Miu Hirano in opposition to Honoka Hashimoto.

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Challenge Series Kasumi Ishikawa Miu Hirano Hitomi Sato Honoka Hashimoto Miyu Kato
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Day 3 - 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Benemax-Virgo North American Open