|In Velenje it was GUO Yue and LI Xiaoxia who opened their account. They beat the Singapore duo of SUN Bei Bei and WANG Yue Gu in the final 7-11, 11-5, 7-11, 11-7, 11-4,11-4.
GUO Yue has won Women’s Doubles titles on the ITTF Pro Tour but not with LI Xiaoxia, the victories have always come with NIU Jianfeng. However, GUO Yue and LI Xiaoxia are no strangers to each other when it comes to doubles.
In 2001 they won the Junior Girls’ Doubles title at the Asian Youth Championships and in the same year finished in runners up spot in the Pyongyang Invitation tournament in North Korea, whilst in 2003 they reached the quarter-finals of the Women’s Doubles event at the Asian Championships.
On the ITTF Pro Tour they were regular partners in 2002, they played together in the Women’s Doubles events in Egypt, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and Denmark; quite incredibly on all five occasions they finished as runners up!
Started in June 2005
Meanwhile, SUN Bei Bei and WANG Yue Gu first played together internationally at the Volkswagen Open Korea in 2005, they finished in runners up spot and the following week in Chinese Taipei it was the same scenario, second place. In late June they crossed the Atlantic Ocean to Fort Lauderdale and reached the semi-final stage of the Liebherr US Open, whilst back in Asia in September, at the Volkswagen Open China, they once again reached the final but once again had to settle for runners up spot.
No titles but a series of consistent performances, thus qualification for the Volkswagen Pro Tour Grand Finals where a semi-final place, as it had been a few weeks earlier at the Pyongyang Tournament in North Korea, was their lot.
In Velenje SUN Bei Bei and WANG Yue Gu once again stumbled at the final hurdle, it was their younger adversaries from China prevailed.
“Three years ago we were not so mature”, said seventeen year old Li Xiaoxia. “Now we are more mature, our techniques are better and psychologically we are stronger.” Watching GUO Yue and LI Xiaoxia play you often forget how young they are, both are still eligible play in the junior ranks of table tennis,
“Also, I think we know each other better now and having been runners up five times before on the ITTF Pro Tour it was about time we won!” added LI Xiaoxia. “We had learnt from the number of times we had been runners up!”
The pain of a possible second place was soon dispelled; from the start of the fourth game they assumed control. “Playing with GUO Yue is very good, her speed is a very important factor in our partnership”, continued LI Xiaoxia. “I think I’m quite good at spinning the ball, so speed and spin combine to make a very effective partnership,”
Most certainly it was a very effective partnership and for LI Xiaoxia it had been a relatively successful tournament. She had lost in the semi-finals of the Women’s Singles to the eventual champion GUO Yue and she had a Women’s Doubles title to her credit.
“It was a reasonably good tournament for me, several of the world’s best players were not here and I was able to try some new techniques that I’ve been trying in training with the coaches,” she said. “I hope I can do better next week.”
The comment underlines LI Xiaoxia’s strive for perfection and her attitude is to be applauded. The vast majority of female players on duty in Slovenia would be delighted to have reached the penultimate stage in the Women’s Singles event and clinched gold in the Women’s Doubles, for Li Xiaoxia it was acceptable not wonderful.
She strives for success, she is a splendid player to watch and further titles on the ITTF Pro Tour in 2005 will no doubt come her way, the best of LI Xiaoxia is yet to come.
WANG Yue Gu and SUN Bei Bei, the runners up in the Women’s Doubles event at the Liebherr Slovenian Open. (Photo by Ziva Vbric)