by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Records between the two counted for nought, a good start, settling the nerves having waited in the wings for the bronze medal match to conclude was surely of prime importance.
The early advantage went to Ding Ning who was determined to seize the initiative, the modern day “banana” backhand return of service from the forehand with forearm vertical and racket circumnavigating the ball, being used to return service on more than one occasion.
In the early stages of the contest Ding Ning was the more active player; in the opening game she established a 6-1 lead but was only able to secure success by the minimal two point margin.
Perhaps slow to start but not in the second game, Li Xiaoxia dominated matters to gain parity; immediately Ding Ning responded to secure the third after being required to save game points. A close third game that was also the order of the fourth; once again Li Xiaoxia levelled.
Notably Li Xiaoxia was most effective when attacking from the backhand; conversely Ding Ning reverted to her trademark squat service technique at crucial times, her forehand from the backhand court wide to the Li Xiaoxia forehand reaped dividends.
However, the crucial factor was the first attack; whoever played the stronger in that department won the point.
Ahead for First Time
Game by game, point by point the level rose; breakneck speed was the order of the evening, exciting rallies, the crowd enthralled but a crucial factor was the destiny of the fifth game.
It was won by Li Xiaoxia, after Ding Ning had saved four game points, for the first time in the match, the defending champion was ahead.
Now the task of recovery was on the shoulders of Ding Ning, never resorting to her squat service style, she levelled; a deciding game worthy of the occasion, beckoned.
Tension an electric atmosphere, at the Qoros 2015 World Championships, Ding Ning had won a dramatic deciding game to secure the title.
In Rio de Janeiro she did the same. She secured the first three points , Li Xiaoxia called “Time Out”, it proved a wise decision she levelled matters but at the change of ends the advantage was with Ding Ning, she led 5-3.
She extended the advantage to 9-4 and at 10-5 held five gold medal points; Li Xiaoxia won the next two points. Ding Ning called “Time Out”.
I called the Time Out, because it was the decider and I wanted to stay firm. At that last moment, it was a contest of determination. Ding Ning
It proved a wise move, she won the next point, the World champion was the Olympic champion.
Success for Ding Ning means that she becomes the fifth player, in an event always won by China, to have secured the Women’s Singles title in the table tennis events at an Olympic Games.
This is unbelievable; I can’t believe that I am Olympic champion. I have waited so long for this, it is a dream come true. I think it was difficult for both my coach, Chen Bin. I have so many titles but I have never hugged him after my victories. Tonight, it’s all beyond words. Playing two defenders in a row before the match indeed had an impact on my shoulders but I did it finally! Ding Ning
In 1988 Chen Jing won in Seoul; four years later In 1992 Deng Yaping succeded in Barcelona and then completed a successful defence in 1996. In 2000 Wang Nan emerged victorious in Sydney; Zhang Yining won in 2004 in Athens before repeating the feat in 2008 in Beijing, whilst Li Xiaoxia secured the precious title in London.
Quite incredibly, in the Women’s Singles event at an Olympic Games, for China the record now reads eight gold, six silver and three bronze.