by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
It is just one of the accolades the 26 year old, who returned to the top of the Women’s World Rankings in October, accrued in 2016. It is just one of the citations that has gained her a nomination for the Female Player of the Year title to be presented at the ITTF Star Award Evening celebration to be held on Thursday 8th December at the Sheraton Hotel in Doha, Qatar.
Earlier in the year she had been pivotal to China’s success at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur, whilst later in Rio de Janeiro enjoying the same success alongside colleagues Liu Shiwen and Li Xiaoxia.
Sandwiched in between, she won the Women’s Singles title on the ITTF World Tour in both Korea and Chile.
Once again just as when we first saw her in 2005 at the World Junior Championships in the Austrian city of Linz, behind, the bright bubbly outgoing personality, the desire, the steely determination the will to win was again in evidence.
Undoubtedly the pain of defeat in the London 2012 Women’s Singles final, when tears had rolled down her cheeks as her service action was faulted in the final against Li Xiaoxia, remained.
Four years later in Rio de Janeiro that memory lingered, if she needed an extra degree of motivation, it was present. Not only was there the motivation element, also there was the fact that she was that much wiser from London and from her experience just over one year earlier in Suzhou when she had beaten Liu Shiwen in the final at the Qoros 2015 World Championships. Incredibly, she finished the contest playing virtually on one leg after suffering an ankle injury at the start of the seventh game.
In Rio de Janeiro, she was a wiser young lady, more adept at handling a crisis; the equation was simple London plus Suzhou equalled success in Rio de Janeiro.
The deep inner determination is now widely known as a major facet of her character but let me add one further element; amongst the leading female players in the world is she the one who is the most prepared to innovate.
Note the service action, the squat style with her nose just peeking above the height of the table as she throws the racket head in true tomahawk style to make contact with the ball.
In 2016, the titles gained by Ding Ning outweigh those of her contemporaries; list those who merit the accolade of legend, surely Ding Ning receives the vote.