Tournaments

09 Dec 2019

Four titles at stake on the concluding day of play, Sunday 8th December, at the 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Benemax-Virgo North American Open in Markham; it was honours shared.

The men’s events went in favour of China, for the women Japan prevailed.

by Ian Marshall, Editor

Required to compete in the qualification tournament, after accounting for Slovenia’s Darko Jorgic, the no.5 seed (11-8, 11-8, 2-11, 11-7, 10-12, 11-6), Xiang Peng secured the men’s singles title at the final expense of Frenchman, Can Akkuzu, the no.7 seed (8-11, 11-5, 11-7, 11-8, 12-14, 11-6).

In the counterpart semi-final, Can Akkuzu had ended the progress of Zhou Kai (11-9, 14-12, 11-7, 4-11, 7-11, 12-10), like compatriot, Xiang Peng, also a qualifier.

A surprise winner according to status; the outcome in the women’s singles event was very different. All-Japan semi-finals, Kasumi Ishikawa, the top seed, overcame Miyu Kato, the no.4 seed (11-6, 7-11, 11-6, 15-13, 11-8) to reserve her place in the final, where she secured the title at the expense of Miu Hirano, the no.2 seed (11-9, 11-8, 1-11, 14-12, 6-11, 12-10).

Earlier in the day, in the penultimate round, Miu Hirano had eventually overcome the defensive skills of Hitomi Sato (11-4, 9-11, 11-3, 6-11, 11-8, 11-7).

Miu Hirano, the runner up in Markham (Photo: Thorsten Gohl)
Doubles gold

Defeat for Hitomi Sato, later in the proceedings it was success. She partnered colleague Honoka Hashimoto to women’s doubles gold; the top seeds, the duo overcame China’s Che Xiaoxi and Li Jiayi (11-6, 11-3, 11-4) to seal the title.

Disappointment for Che Xiaoxi and Li Jiayi; soon after for colleagues Cao Wei and Yu Yingbin it was success. The no.6 seeds, they beat Belgium’s Martin Allegro and Florent Lambiet, the top seeds, to arrest the men’s doubles title.

Men’s doubles success for Cao Wei in partnership with Xi Yingbin (Photo: Thorsten Gohl)
New horizons

Gold for Xiang Peng but for all four men’s singles semi-finalists it was a golden day; their best ever finish in the event at an open international tournament.

The previous best for Xiang Peng and Darko Jorgic was the quarter-final round. Earlier this year Xiang Peng had reached the last eight in Poland; also in Poland, Darko Jorgic had progressed the same round in 2018 as well as in both 2017 and 2018 in Belgium.

Meanwhile, for Can Akkuzu, last year he had been a semi-finalist in Croatia; for Zhou Kai, on the 2014 ITTF World Tour, he was a quarter-finalist in Japan.

Runners up spot for Can Akkuzu but a milestone; a first men’s singles final at an open international tournament (Photo: Rémy Gros)
Previous success

Rather differently in the women’s singles, all four had previously reserved the top step of the podium on the international scene. Kasumi Ishikawa was the owner of nine ITTF World Tour women’s singles titles prior to play commencing in Markham; in 2016 Miu Hirano had won in Poland, Hitomi Sato in Croatia.

Additionally, since January 2017 when the Challenge Series had become an entity in its own right, Hitomi Sato had prevailed on four occasions, Miyu Kato had succeeded in 2018 in Slovenia and this year in March in Spain.

A semi-final exit for Miyu Kato (Photo: Thorsten Gohl)
Added to collection

Likewise, women’s doubles success meant Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato added to their collection. The Markham success brought them their sixth title at ITTF Challenge Series tournaments and if we add the ITTF World Tour, nine overall; however, the win brought to an end somewhat of a drought.

The most recent success was at the 2018 ITTF Challenge Series tournament in Croatia some 20 months ago in mid-April; earlier this year they had reached the final in both Oman and in Croatia but had experienced defeat.

Success for Honoka Hashimoto in partnership with Hitomi Sato (Photo: courtesy of North American Open)
Cao Wei and Xu Yingbin

Defeat for Che Xiaoxi and Li Jiayi who were making their first appearance in an open international tournament as pair; for their colleagues, Cao Wei and Xu Yingbin in the men’s doubles final, it was a different scenario. It was their second excursion to the title deciding round and their second victory.

They won earlier in the year in February in Portugal, the first Challenge Series tournament of the year. On that occasion they beat Japan’s Shunsuke Togami and Yukiya Uda, the pair against whom later in the year in May in Croatia, Martin Allegro and Florent Lambiet lost in their one and only other final appearance.

Proceedings concluded in Canada, attention now turns to the Chinese city of Zhengzhou; the Agricultural Bank of China 2019 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals commence on Thursday 12th December.

Once again runners up spot for Florent Lambiet (nearest camera) and Martin Allegro (Photo: Kate Ostapenko)
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Challenge Series 2019 North America Kasumi Ishikawa Hitomi Sato Honoka Hashimoto Xu Yingbin Xiang Peng Cao Wei
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Day 3 - 2019 ITTF Challenge Plus Benemax-Virgo North American Open