Judo is back and with the IJF Masters in Doha the world’s top athletes will be finally in the mood for some smashing. JudoInside and JudoCrazy analysed the top favourites which will give you a guide to watch out for in the women's division with 184 athletes of a total of 399 from 69 countries.
U48kg Bilodid and Tonaki on the same side
The top 8 U48kg of the World Ranking is fully represented The top-ranked player here is Kosovo’s Distria Krasniqi but the queen of this category is without doubt Daria Bilodid (UKR). She recently stumbled in last year’s Hungary Grand Slam when she lost in the quarterfinal round but to be fair, she was competing in the U52kg category. She is now back to U48kg, where she really reigns supreme. In that category, she has only been defeated once since late 2017. The player who beat her, Melanie Clement of France (in the 2019 Tblisi Grand Prix) will be contesting in Doha. But it is worth mentioning that Clement had subsequently lost to Bilodid in the 2019 Minsk Europeans. Kosovo’s Krasniqi has fought and lost to Bilodid twice but that was in 2018, the year Krasniqi moved down from U52kg to U48kg. She has since adjusted well to her new weight and has been showing impressive results, including wins in the 2019 Qingdao World Masters, 2020 Paris Grand Slam and 2020 Hungary Grand Slam. A match up against Bilodid would be a one for the fans. The other player who could give her a lot of trouble is Japan’s Funa Tonaki. Although the Japanese player has lost to her four times already, their most recent match, in the final of the 2019 World Championships, was a closely fought one.
U52kg Buchard and Kelmendi battle
Top seed Amandine Buchard of France is the only non-Japanese player to have beaten Uta Abe (in the 2019 Osaka Grand Slam) since the Japanese whiz kid made her international debut in late 2016. Abe subsequently beat her in the 2020 Dusseldorf Grand Prix, so a rematch would have been very exciting. But alas, Abe will not be competing in Doha. In her place is former World Champion Ai Shishime. Their match-ups so far is 2:3 in favour of the Japanese, so if they meet again in Doha, it will be an interesting one. Another top prospect is Odette Giuffrida (ITA), the reigning European Champion. But they’ve fought four times and Buchard won each time. You can’t discount World and Olympic Champion Majlinda Kelmendi (KOS) although she has been away from competition for more than a year and no longer seems to be the dominant force she once was. She has fought Buchard three times and won on all three occasions.
U57kg Deguchi doesn't compete, Klimkait smells chances
This category has long been the toughest category in the women’s division, with both young and more experienced top contenders at play. In Doha, the top seed is Jessica Klimkait (CAN), a drop-seoi-nage specialist who has been doing extremely well in international competitions. An obvious rival is Japan’s Tsukasa Yoshida, with whom she has a 2:2 track record. It should be mentioned though that the Canadian won their last two exchanges, both in 2019. Perhaps a harder challenger is Kosovo’s Nora Gjakova whom she has never beaten (they’ve fought three times, so far). Other players who could give her a hard time are Lien Chen-Ling (TPE), Sumiya Dorjsuren (MGL) and Daria Mezhetskaia (RUS), all of whom have beaten Klimkait before.
U63kg Agbegnenou topclass
The top-seed and hands-on favorite is Clarisse Agbegnenou (FRA) but the No. 2 is Nami Nabekura (JPN) who had defeated Agbegnenou in the 2019 Qingdao World Masters. Agbegnenou got her revenge a few months later in the 2020 Paris Grand Slam. So, a rematch would be super exciting for the fans. Tina Trstenjak (SLO), Agbegnenou’s traditional rival, will not be competing in Doha.
U70kg French vs Dutch women and Yoko Ono
The top two seeds in this category are both from France: Marie Eve Gahie and Margaux Pinot. They had fought in the bronze medal match at the 2019 Qingdao World Masters, and there it was Gahie who prevailed. Top challengers to Gahie are Sanne Van Dijke (NED) who has won five out of the last six times they have fought; Barbara Matic (CRO) who has won five out of the last seven times they fought; and Michaela Polleres (AUT) who has a 3:3 record against Gahie. Interestingly, Pinot has also fought Matic seven times and lost five of those bouts.
U78kg Three French and two German seeded women
There are three top French players contesting in this category. The top seed is World Champion Madeleine Malonga, while the number three and number seven spots are her compatriots Fanny Estelle Posvite and veteran campaigner Audrey Tcheumeo, respectively. With so many top French players here, it’s a good bet one of them will make it to the final, though Malonga is the favorite. The number two seed is former World Champion Shori Hamada (JPN). In the 2019 Tokyo World Championships, Malonga defeated Hamada in the individual event but lost to her in the team’s event. Other rivals to Malonga is Natalie Powell, with whom she has a 6:6 track record, and Luise Malzahn (GER) with whom Malonga has a 5:5 track record.
+78kg Ortiz in one pool with Dicko
The top two seeds are Idalys Ortiz (CUB) and Maria Suelen Altheman (BRA) who are 31 and 32 years old respectively. Ortiz is an Olympic and double World Champion and the most accomplished in the field. Out to challenge her is 21-year-old European Champion Romane Dicko (FRA) in the same pool with Cuban Ortiz. They had fought once before, where the Cuban was the victor, but that was way back in 2017 when the French player was still a teenager. Dicko, though unseeded, had an impressive year in 2020, winning the Tel Aviv Grand Prix, the Paris Grand Slam and lastly the Prague European Champions. She will be the one to watch.