by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The odds were very much stacked against Sabine Winter. She had played Feng Tianwei on four previous occasions prior to the contest in Philadelphia and on only one meeting had verdict not been in favour of the Singaporean in straight games.
All prior encounters had been in 2015, the one result where Sabine Winter had threatened Feng Tianwei was on the ITTF World Tour in Kuwait when she had held a two games to nil lead, before experiencing defeat (9-11, 11-13, 11-2, 12-10, 11-5, 11-5).
On the three other occasions, at the World Team Cup in Dubai, on the ITTF World Tour in Qatar as well as at the Qoros World Championships, Feng Tianwei had won without a blemish.
Once again in Philadelphia it was a straight games defeat but with three of the four games being decided by the minimal two point margin, the score-line was somewhat harsh on Sabine Winter; her athletic efforts won the hearts of the Philadelphia crowd.
Unquestionably the win over Korea’s Yang Haeun, the no.8 seed, the previous evening, when she had recovered from a three games to nil deficit (10-12, 9-11, 10-12, 11-8, 12-10, 11-5, 11-7) to emerge successful, had given Sabine Winter a boost of confidence. In that contest, the smoothly executed forehand had gained in effectiveness.
“Sabine played very aggressively, so I had to adapt to her style; although it’s a long way from Singapore I’m enjoying my time in Philadelphia”, Feng Tianwei
Against Feng Tianwei, if that forehand could be executed early in the rally, the German enjoyed success; the problem was playing that stroke in an effective manner; focus on the backhand was the Singaporean ploy.
Sabine Winter had her chances, she held game points on two occasions in the second game and at 10-8 in the third game had further opportunities; the chances went begging.
Feng Tianwei remained steadfast; game points saved, she established an early lead in the fourth game; Sabine Winter, to her great credit fought but was never able to gain parity. Perhaps somewhat relieved, Feng Tianwei had reserved her place in the penultimate round.
A semi-final place for Feng Tianwei at a Women’s World Cup was not new, she had achieved the feat on four previous occasions, nor was any record set; that was not the situation in the immediate ensuing encounter.
Never has a quarter-final been played at a Women’s World Cup where the combined age of the two players has been a mere 31 years; Miu Hirano is16 years old, Mima Ito is 15 years of age.
One player is the same cumulative age and five players in the tournament are older than the combined ages of the Japanese teenagers. However, it’s not good manners to divulge a ladies age and I do want litigation.
Mima Ito and Miu Hirano are inseparable; together as a doubles pair or as opponents.
They have met on six occasions in World ranking events, each has won three times but this year, prior to the meeting in Philadelphia, Miu Hirano had won both encounters.
She won on the ITTF World Tour in Poland and at the Nakheel Asian Cup in Dubai.
In Philadelphia she maintained the momentum, she won again. At the semi-final stage she meets Feng Tianwei.