by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
In the immediate preceding contest the verdict had resulted in favour of youth; in the ensuing duel it was the same.
Against the odds, Miu Hirano emerged successful by a similar margin (3-11, 11-6, 7-11, 13-11, 11-9, 15-13)
Matters were conducted at top speed, both players determined to remain close to the table, a playing area half the size of the splendid setting in the Liacouras Center would have sufficed.
Fast exchanges were the order of the day with Miu Hirano once again, as in her one previous meeting against Feng Tianwei, being more than ready for the challenge presented. Earlier this year at the Nakheel Asian Cup in Dubai, the qualification tournament for the Seamaster 2016 Women’s World Cup, she experienced defeat against the Singaporean but had extended her illustrious adversary to six games in their opening round duel (8-11, 11-3, 6-11, 11-9, 12-10, 11-9).
In Philadelphia, she reversed the decision.
Feng Tianwei captured the opening game before Miu Hirano, playing at breakneck speed, won the first eight points of the second game; a somewhat shell-shocked Feng Tianwei recovered her composure to secure the next five points, prompting the Japanese camp to call “Time Out”.
It proved a wise move, Miu Hirano captured the second game, Feng Tianwei re-established her advantage by winning the third game before in the fourth establishing a 10-5 lead.
Undaunted, Miu Hirano won the next four points prompting Singaporean national coach, Chen Zhibin to call “Time Out”. The break worked but not for Feng Tianwei. She made uncharacteristic errors from the forehand; against the odds Miu Hirano had levelled.
It was to prove a pivotal stage of the contest; Miu Hirano captured the fifth game before in the sixth game establishing a 10-9 lead; the match point was saved. Feng Tianwei then held two game points before on her third match securing vitory.
Success for Miu Hirano, the youngest ever Women’s World Cup semi-finalist; now she is the youngest ever finalist.
Meanwhile, for Feng Tianwei it was her sixth appearance in a Women’s World Cup semi-final; it was her sixth defeat.