by Ian Marshall, Editor
Commencing in February in Lisbon, in a period of 11 months, Hina Hayata played in no less than 19 international tournaments, or to be more precise in a period of 45 weeks; that’s less than an average of every two and half weeks she was competing somewhere on planet earth.
The reward was that she became the most successful player in the three years that the ITTF Challenge Series has been a separate entity from the ITTF World Tour.
In 2017 she had won in Spain; in 2019 in February she prevailed in Portugal, the following month in Oman. Later in May she succeeded in Serbia, in September in Paraguay and in October in Belarus.
Consistent, she did not lose a women’s singles match at an ITTF Challenge Series tournament until in the week prior to Belarus, in Poland she was beaten at the quarter-final stage by China’s Zhang Qiang.
Moreover, in her total of eight ITTF Challenge Series excursions in 2019, it was only when facing Chinese adversaries that she came unstuck. Most recently in December, in Canada she suffered in the second round when facing Guo Yuhan.
The results meant that when she succeeded in Paraguay, she matched the record of five career wins and four in the same year held by Saki Shibata; in Belarus she went one ahead of her colleague on both counts. Saki Shibata won in 2017 in Belgium, then in 2018 again in Belgium as well as in Belarus, Croatia and Spain.
Overall, there have been 33 ITTF Challenge Series tournaments since January 2017; between them Hina Hayata and Saki Shibata have won 11 times. They own 33.33 per cent of the titles!
A total of eight ITTF Challenge Series tournaments for Hina Hayata in 2019; on the ITTF World Tour it was 10 in number. No doubt had the Hungarian Open in January not clashed with the Japanese National Championships and her entry for Hong Kong been accepted and not been one of several players on the waiting list, then she would have competed in the full 12 on the calendar!
It is in this scenario where we witness the difference between the ITTF World Tour and the ITTF Challenge Series, both have their own merits. On the ITTF World Tour, only once did Hina Hayata progress through the early rounds; in November in Austria she reached the quarter-finals.
Most creditable performances but it underlines the fact that when Japanese team selection selection is the subject, Kasumi Ishikawa, Mima Ito and Miu Hirano receive the nod. In 2019, Kasumi Ishikawa was a semi-finalist in the Czech Republic and Australia, a quarter-finalists in Bulgaria and the Korea Republic; Miu Hirano was the runner up in the Czech Republic, a semi-finalist in Hong Kong and on home soil in Japan.
Meanwhile, Mima Ito, in 11 ITTF World Tour appearances, only in the Czech Republic and Japan did she not reach the last eight. Notably, she ended the year winning in Austria.
A quite incredible 18 appearances at open international tournaments; the further excursion was in April, the Liebherr 2019 World Championships in Budapest, the tournament for which she was not selected!
She did not appear on the women’s singles entry list. Kasumi Ishikawa, Mima Ito, Miu Hirano, Miyu Kato and Hitomi Sato was the preferred option; Hina Hayata played only in the women’s doubles and enjoyed her greatest triumph of the year.
Partnering Mima Ito, the duo finished in runners up spot, after establishing a two games to nil lead in the final, they experienced defeat at the hands of China’s Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu.
Five gold medals in the year but silver was the most precious.