by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Four years prior to the Lisbon success, in 2011 in London she had been the runner up, the same again the following year in Hangzhou and then in the next edition of the tournament staged in early 2014 in Dubai.
On all three occasions she had been beaten at the final hurdle by her colleague Liu Shiwen.
Notably, Liu Shiwen, who has been suspended by the Chinese Table Tennis Association will not be on duty in Doha but on the 2016 ITTF World Tour, Ding Ning did gain some revenge for the three defeats experienced.
The two met in four Women’s Singles finals; Ding Ning won in China and Korea, Liu Shiwen in Qatar and Japan.
In terms of titles, they were the most successful players on duty; no other player won more than once. Notably Ding Ning on every occasion when she competed on the 2016 ITTF World Tour, reached final of the Women’s Singles event; additionally she was the runner up in Kuwait when beaten by compatriot Li Xiaoxia.
Undoubtedly, had the entry been confirmed, Liu Shiwen would have been the greatest rival for Ding Ning but does that mantle fall now on the shoulders of her colleague, Zhu Yuling?
Somewhat surprising, in five appearances on this year’s ITTF World Tour, Zhu Yuling never reached the final of a Women’s Singles event; her best being a semi-finalist in Qatar, Japan and Korea.
Does that fact elevate Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, the second seed in Doha to the role of main challenger; depending on the draw that could be a possible scenario; Zhu Yuling is the third seed.
However, in the current Chinese Super League, the player in form is Zhu Yuling, she has lost just two of her 24 matches and leads the averages. Conversely, Ding Ning has experienced no less than eight defeats in her 17 matches.
Furthermore, one reverse has been against the player who caused her immense heartache in the final of the Women’s event at the Liebherr 2010 World Team Championships, she lost to Singapore’s Feng Tianwei.
In Doha, Feng Tianwei is the fourth seed; the draw on Wednesday 7th December in the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena will be fascinating.
Who will be in the same half as Ding Ning; Feng Tianwei or Zhu Yuling?