by Ian Marshall, Editor
Eyes focused on Saki Shibata but for local eyes they will be honed in the direction of Natalia Partyka, who ever since 2008 in Beijing has competed in both the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, setting records that one wonders will ever be surpassed.
However, at open international tournaments, she has yet to climb the next hurdle to gain a women’s singles podium place. It is the same for her colleague, Natalia Bajor, who in Gliwice is the no.6 seed and teams up with Partyka as no.2 seed in the women’s doubles.
They are listed one place behind the top-ranked Japanese partnership of Shibata and Satsuki Odo, who are seeking an unprecedented eighth ITTF Challenge Series women’s doubles title.
Aged only 15 years, Odo has also made her presence felt in ITTF Challenge Series women’s singles events. Last year she reached the penultimate round in both Slovenia and Croatia. She is the no.8 seed in Poland.
Chance to replicate recent success?
Amongst the leading names on duty in Gliwice, the most successful last year was Portugal’s Shao Jieni, who took the title in Indonesia in November.
She is the no.3 seed ahead of Japan’s Minami Ando; Chile’s Paulina Vega is the no.5 seed, Stéphanie Loeuillette of France, the no.7 seed.
Notably in 2018, Ando was a semi-finalist in Belarus and Slovenia. In 2017, Vega reached the last eight in Brazil.
Main names in men’s events
Croatia’s Tomislav Pucar is top seed in the men’s singles event, last year a semi-finalist at the ITTF Challenge Series events in both Oman and on home soil in Croatia. Pucar is one place ahead of Greece’s Panagiotis Gionis, who won the ITTF Challenge Series events in Croatia in both 2017 and 2018.
Immediately following is Brazil’s Vitor Ishiy with Japan’s Mizuki Oikawa next on the list; Argentina’s Horacio Cifuentes, Frenchman Can Akkuzu, the host nation’s Jakub Dyjas and Ecuador’s Alberto Miño complete the top eight.
Notably at ITTF Challenge Series events, Oikawa won in 2018 in Slovenia, last year Ishiy was a semi-finalist in Paraguay. Similarly, Akkuzu progressed to the penultimate round in 2018 in Croatia, as did Miño in 2015 in Chile. One step higher, Dyjas was the runner up last year in Slovenia.
Poland brings happy memories for Cifuentes, the under 21 men’s singles winner last year in Spain and Paraguay. Last year, when the tournament was staged in Wladislawowo in October, he partnered Gaston Alto to men’s doubles gold; this year the Argentine duo occupies the top seeded spot.
Meanwhile, in the under 21 men’s singles event, Frenchman Jules Rolland and England’s Tom Jarvis occupy the respective top two seeded places.