by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
A defender, one wondered how Mima Ito may cope against that style of play, having some three days earlier at the Sun International 2016 World Junior Championships in Cape Town experienced a surprise second round defeat at the hands of the Korean backspin player, Kim Youjin. Currently Kim Youjin has no World ranking, her best ever status being no.200 earlier this year in June; conversely, Han Ying is listed at no.8; surely it was a daunting task for the 16 year old from the Land of the Rising Sun?
Conversely, did Mima Ito have a major psychological advantage? They had met in the first round of the Women’s Singles event at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour German Open in Bremen; on that occasion Han Ying had experienced agonising defeat by the very narrowest of margins. Even more agonising for Han Ying was the fact that she had comfortably won the first three games (3-11, 4-11, 4-11, 12-10, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9).
The advantage proved to be with Han Ying; Mima Ito captured the opening game but a close second game turned the tide; the defence proved secure as gradually Mima Ito made errors in her efforts to penetrate the wall erected by the German. Gallantly, Mima Ito performed a mini recovery to capture the fifth game but there was to be no complete recovery; Han Ying secured the next and a six games win (8-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-2, 6-11, 11-5).
“I am pleased with my performance today; last time we played, I lost after winning the first three games. Actually that gave me confidence today because winning the first three games last time I knew I had the capabilities to beat her. I feel in good shape and today I was more patient than last time; I kept defending and gradually she made mistakes”, Han Ying.
An intriguing contest, the next on the itinerary was arguably even more enticing; Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, the no.4 seed, faced Miu Hirano, the no.10 seed; there was a debt to settle. In early October at the Seamaster 2016 Women’s World Cup, Miu Hirano had beaten Feng Tianwei at the semi-final stage, in Doha it was a single minded Feng Tianwei who entered the arena.
Matters appeared to be progressing in favour of Feng Tianwei, she won the first two games it appeared that the debt was to be settled; it was not to be the scenario. Miu Hirano, to her great credit, levelled matters at two games apiece before losing the fifth and then winning three in a row to seal the victory.
A tense contest and there was a tense contest that brought the opening round of the Women’s Singles event to a conclusion.
After, Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, the no.6 seed had beaten Hina Hayata, the no.14 seed and like Miu Hirano from Japan (11-6, 11-8, 11-5, 11-4); Korea’s Yang Haeun, the no.8 seed, overcame Germany’s Shan Xiaona, the no.13 seed (6-11, 6-11, 11-9, 11-7, 9-11, 12-10, 11-9).
At the quarter-final stage Ding Ning meets Han Ying, Tie Yana opposes Miu Hirano; in the opposite half of the draw, it is Zhu Yuling versus Cheng I-Ching, Yang Haeun in opposition to Kasumi Ishikawa.