by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.2 seed, was extended the full seven games distance by Korea’s Suh Hyowon, the no.15 seed (8-11, 2-11, 11-9, 11-4, 11-8, 6-11, 11-5).
Both defenders, Hitomi Sato and Suh Hyowon made every effort to make tactical changes; Zhu Yuling adapted quickly, Kasumi Ishikawa eventually adapted.
In keeping with virtually all high class defensive players, Hitomi Sato uses a racket with pimpled rubber on one side and reversed rubber on the other; the norm is the pimpled rubber surface is used on the backhand.
Somewhat unusually, she twiddled the racket in her hand in order that the smooth covered side of the racket was on the backhand enabling her to execute spasmodic top spin attacks. However, her efforts to upset the rhythm of Zhu Yuling proved in vain, the twice World Junior champion was never seriously threatened; a straight games verdict was the end result.
Conversely, life was much more difficult for Kasumi Ishikawa who in the first two games experienced problems returning service thus affording Suh Hyowon the opportunity to attack with a forehand top spot. Notably of the world’s current leading female backspin players, Suh Hyowon is the most attack minded.
Gradually, Kasumi Ishikawa recovered; she won the third game before levelling the fourth after there had been an enforced break in play in the third game when Suh Hyowon needed medical help after suffering a small cut above the little finger of her playing hand.
The next two games were shared with a somewhat tentative Kasumi Ishikawa making errors in the sixth; a deep breath, a moment for thought, in the deciding seventh games, after losing the first point, she won the next five. Confidence grew, an upset was averted.
“I was nervous receiving her service, I made mistakes; in the third game when she took the injury break, it enabled to calm myself and focus”, Kasumi Ishikawa.
A testing contest for Kasumi Ishikawa against the defensive art, it was the same for Hong Kong’s Tie Yana, the no.5 seed, in opposition to Yuka Ishigaki, the no.9 seed; she needed the full seven games to secure victory (9-11, 7-11, 12-10, 11-6, 6-11, 11-7, 11-4).
Success for the second seed was followed with success for the top seed; China’s Ding Ning, using the modern day so called “banana” return of service with forearm horizontal and racket circumnavigating the ball underlined the reasons why she is the reigning Olympic and World champion. She beat Hong Kong’s Lee Ho Ching, the no.12 seed, in four straight games (14-12, 11-7, 11-5, 11-6).
Wins for the higher rated players as matters commenced in the Women’s Singles event; in the Men’s Doubles competition, there was one upset and almost a second.
Hong Kong’s Ho Kwan Kit and Tang Pang, the no.6 seeds, beat Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan and Huang Sheng-Sheng, the no.4 seeds (10-12, 11-5, 11-9, 11-7, 3-11, 7-11, 11-6); Korea’s Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu, the no.2 seeds, accounted for Japan’s Koki Niwa and Maharu Yoshimura, the no.7 seeds, but they were stretched to the very limit (11-6, 4-11, 10-12, 16-14, 14-12, 9-11, 16-14).
The first day of action at the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals