31 Mar 2020

Play cut short; nevertheless, March proved a month full of action and drama. Notably, the third ITTF World Tour event of the year was staged as well as ITTF Challenge Series and ITTF World Junior Circuit tournaments. Also there was continental action from Europe and South America.

Here are the standout candidates for the ITTF Player of the Month social media award!

Fan Zhendong

A month after suffering an unexpected quarter-final exit at the hands of the host nation’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov at the German Open, Fan Zhendong returned to title winning ways in March at the 2020 ITTF World Tour Platinum Qatar Open in Doha. Battling past Anton Källberg, Xu Chenhao and Jon Persson, Fan then overcame fellow compatriot Wang Chuqin before seeing off England’s Liam Pitchford in a six-game epic to win his 14th career singles title on the ITTF World Tour.

Fan Zhendong in determined mood in Doha (Photo: Hussein Sayed)
Giulia Takahashi

Hailing from Brazil, Giulia Takahashi, the younger sister of Bruna Takahashi, completed a clean sweep of titles at the 2020 South American Junior and Cadet Championships in Lima. The 14 year old reached the top step of the podium in the cadet girls’ singles, cadet girls’ doubles, cadet mixed doubles and cadet girls’ team events – and then did exactly the same at the immediately following Peru Junior and Cadet Open. Unbeaten throughout 10 days of play, will she remain unbeaten in this player of the month poll?

Giulia Takahashi won eight titles in the space of 10 days! (Photo: Rinna Sansotta)
Liam Pitchford

Seeded 15th in Doha, England’s Liam Pitchford made history at the 2020 Qatar Open. The first ever Englishman to reach the men’s singles final at a Platinum event, Pitchford defeated World no.1 Xu Xin, a match he later described as the “best win of my life.” Pitchford also sealed a silver medal in the men’s doubles alongside Paul Drinkhall, becoming the first English pair to do so on the ITTF World Tour. The pair achieved the feat against all odds, having been required to qualify for the main draw. For more on Pitchford’s Qatar Open story check out our interview with the English star.

The man making history for England! (Photo: Hussein Sayed)
Yang Qian

Contesting the 2020 ITTF Costa Brava Spanish Para Open, Australia’s Yang Qian took home women’s singles class 9-10 gold. Adding to her women’s singles success, Yang joined forces with colleagues Melissa Tapper and Lei Lina to lead her country to the women’s team class 9-10 title. The top seeds, in a group organised competition, Australia finished ahead of Chinese Taipei’s Tian Shiau-Wen and Tin Tzu-Yu. Representing China, Yang has previously secured silver medals at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, in women’s singles class 10.

Two gold medals for Yang Qian to celebrate (Photo: Antonio Alvarez Luengo)
Sharath Kamal Achanta

Rolling back the years, India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta returned to the top step of the men’s singles podium on the international stage following a decade long wait. An iconic figure in his country’s table tennis set-up, Achanta showed his class from yesteryear to beat Portuguese top seed Marcos Freitas to the title at the 2020 ITTF Challenge Plus Oman Open in Muscat. Achanta’s previous success came ten years prior at the 2010 Egypt Open in Cairo!

Sharath Kamal Achanta proved too hot to handle in Muscat (Photo: Mohammed Al Hassani)
Hitomi Sato

Named top seed and thus the player to beat in the women’s singles race in Muscat, Hitomi Sato lived up to expectations. The Japanese defender endured a tricky draw but managed to negotiate her way to the final where she met fellow compatriot Miyu Kato. Trailing by a two-game deficit, Sato showed great maturity to come back and win a marathon six game affair in epic style. Sato also collected women’s doubles gold as she and Honoka Hashimoto beat Singapore’s Lin Ye and Zeng Jian to the title.

Patience and sheer determination helped Hitomi Sato to Oman Open glory (Photo: Mohammed Al Hassani)
Peter Mihalik

Seeded third for the Costa Brava Para Open, Slovakia’s Peter Mihalik beat Croatia’s Tomislav Spal, Chinese Taipei’s Lin Wen-Hsin and colleague Boris Travincek to emerge as men’s singles class 4 champion. Later Mikhalik went on to partner Travincek in a most rewarding men’s team class 3-4 campaign; at the final hurdle the Slovak duo overcame Poland’s Maciej Nalepka and the Czech Republic’s Peter Svatos to be crowned champions.

Peter Mihalik wasn’t content with just the one title in Costa Brava! (Photo: Antonio Alvarez Luengo)
Prithika Pavade

Winner of the junior girls’ singles event the previous month at the 2020 Sweden Junior and Cadet Open, 15 year old Prithika Pavade from France continued her good form in March as she came away with women’s singles gold at the European Under 21 Championships in Varazdin. Required to negotiate the opening stage of play, the no.9 seed toppled defending champion Adina Diaconu at the semi-final stage before accounting for top-seeded Andreea Dragoman to arrest the title.

Prithika Pavade surprise winner in Varazdin (Photo: Martin Novosel)
Eugene Wang

Playing on home soil in Kitchener, at the North American Singles and Mixed Doubles Qualification Tournament, Canada’s Eugene Wang secured his ticket for the Tokyo Olympic Games with victory over Jeremy Hazin. Later Wang partnered Zhang Mo to mixed doubles success – in the title decider the Canadians accounted for the United States pairing of Zhou Xin and Liu Juan. It will be a third Olympic Games appearance for Wang, having previously competed at London 2012 and Rio 2016.

Eugene Wang proved a step ahead of the field in Kitchener (Photo: Thorsten Gohl)
Zhang Mo

Also on duty in Kitchener, in addition to her mixed doubles success partnering Eugene Wang, Zhang Mo was awarded the women’s singles title. In the all-important final play-off match, Zhang accounted for Hui Huang to seal her passage to Tokyo. Making her debut in 2008 in Beijing it will be for Zhang her fourth consecutive Olympic Games having also featured in London and Rio de Janeiro, but does she get your vote for player of the month?

Zhang Mo will represent Canada at the Olympic Games once again (Photo: Thorsten Gohl)
Features Player of the Month Fan Zhendong Hitomi Sato Liam Pitchford Zhang Mo Sharath Kamal Achanta Giulia Takahashi Prithika Pavade Eugene Wang Yang Qian Peter Mihalik