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Sunday 31st March


Japan and Korea share spoils

Disciplined performances, in control of emotions, Korea’s Kim Minhyeok and Japan’s Saki Shibata emerged worthy winners of the respective Under 21 Men’s Singles and Under 21 Men’s Singles titles at the 2018 ITTF Challenge Spanish Open in Gualalajara on Sunday 1st April.

At the final hurdle, each succeeded without the need for a dramatic deciding seventh game; Saki Shibata, the no.5 seed beat colleague Hitiomi Sato, the top seed, in six games (11-5, 11-9, 11-6, 13-15, 6-11, 11-7), before Kim Minhyeok brought the tournament to a conclusion by overcoming Austria’s Robert Gardos, to seal the title.

Success for Saki Shibata meant that she departed Guadalajara the most successful player in the whole tournament; the previous day she had won the Under 21 Women’s Singles event, beating Korea’s Kim Youjin in the final (11-2, 11-8, 11-6).

Meanwhile, for Kim Minhyeok, it was the end of a long journey. He had started his quest for honours four days earlier in the qualification tournament; overall he played eight matches to secure the title.

Furthermore, you can add another six to that number. Partnering Cho Eonrae, the duo, having likewise started their campaign in the qualification tournament, finished in runners up spot in the Men’s Doubles event. On the concluding day of play, they were beaten at the final hurdle by colleagues An Jaehyun and Cho Seungmin, the top seeds (11-8, 11-9, 11-3, 11-4).

Success for Cho Seungmin and like Saki Shibata, he departed Guadalajara with two titles to his name; the previous day, he had won the Under 21 Men’s Singles title beating Germany’s Tobias Hippler in the final.

Meanwhile, for Hitomi Sato, there was a degree of consolation, partnering Honoka Hashimoto and occupying the top seeded position in the competition the duo won the Women’s Doubles title, the opening contest on the concluding day’s schedule. In the title deciding contest they overcame Luxembourg’s Sarah de Nutte and Ni Xialian (11-8, 11-7, 11-4).

Play in Guadalajara concluded, attention now turns to Otocec; the 2018 ITTF Challenge Slovenia Open commences with the qualification tournament on Monday 2nd April.



China makes presence known

Success in Germany, a first appearance of the year, Ma Long enters the ITTF World Tour Men’s Singles Standings; he is named in second place alongside Chinese national team colleague, Xu Xin, as the listings start to take shape in the quest to reserve one of the 16 places available in the end of year US$ 1,000,000 Seamaster 2018 World Tour Grand Finals.

Now well established, the four day event is scheduled to commence on Thursday 13th December.

One place ahead of Ma Long and Xu Xin (500 points) is their compatriot Fan Zhendong (750 points), not present in Germany but on duty earlier in the year in both Hungary and Qatar where on each occasion he won the Men’s Singles title.

Notably in Qatar, he beat Xu Xin in the penultimate round, prior to accounting for Brazil’s Hugo Calderano in the final. A semi-finalist in Hungary but in Germany an opening round defeat, Hugo Calderano occupies fourth spot on the Men’s Singles Standings (388 points).

Meanwhile, for Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, victory in Germany means she now leads the Women’s Singles listings (700 points), being ahead of the Chinese trio of Wang Manyu (550 points), Liu Shiwen (500 points) and Sun Yungsha (325 points). Level alongside Sun Yingsha is Korea’s Suh Hyowon (325 points), the player Kasumi Ishikawa beat in the German final.

Prominent on the Men’s Singles Standings, the names of Fan Zhendong, Ma Long and Xu Xin are equally prominent on the Men’s Doubles Standings. Xu Xin is the common factor, in Qatar he won in partnership with Fan Zhendong (300 points), in Germany when joining forces with Ma Long (300 points). Next in line is the Korean combination of Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu (263 points); the runners up in Germany.

First place for China in the Men’s Doubles Standing, it is the same in the Women’s Doubles order of merit; the pairs that have to date claimed titles occupy the leading positions.

Chen Ke and Wang Manyu, the winners in Qatar, head the list (400 points), next in line are colleagues Chen Xingtong and Sun Yingsha, the champions in Hungary (350 points). They are followed by Japan’s Hina Hayata and Mima Ito, the gold medallists in Germany.