10 Dec 2016

Illness, the enforced withdrawal of Ding Ning meant that Chinese hopes in the Women’s Singles event at the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals rested firmly on the shoulders of Zhu Yuling.

The 21 year old, the no.3 seed, duly accepted the responsibility; on the evening of Friday 9th December, she booked her place in the penultimate round.

by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor

Success but she was given a severe test by Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching; she was required to recover from a two games to nil deficit in order to overcome the no.6 seed (8-11, 10-12, 12-10, 11-8, 11-8, 11-7).

Unquestionably Cheng I-Ching is one of the most improved amongst the elite in the past year; one year ago she was listed at no.22 on the Women’s World Ranking, now occupies the no.7 spot.

Earlier in the year at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur she lost just one match; that when facing the redoubtable Li Xiaoxia. Later in the year at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, it had been Li Xiaoxia who ended progress at the quarter-final stage.

“She made many changes after the second game; especially with her service; she served short and I made mistakes. I think I played better today than at the Women’s World Cup. I am pleased with my level but disappointed to lose”, Cheng I-Ching

Against Zhu Yuling, arguably not as powerful as Li Xiaoxia but unerring in consistency, Cheng I-Ching won the first two games.

A major strength of Cheng I-Ching is her forehand; she favours moving around her backhand earlier in the rally to execute the stroke. One wonders if she does not employ that tactic too much; against Zhu Yuling, her backhand appeared much stronger, less passive than when I had seen her play at the Seamaster 2016 Women’s World Cup in Philadelphia.

“It was a hard match having to come back from two-nil down. Cheng I-Ching played very well today, the scores were tight and even in the third game, I could only take the game after 10-10. I think winning the silver medal at the World Cup definitely was a big step in her career; she’s more confident on court, more experienced and is able to handle crucial points better. One reason why I lost in the first two games was because I wasn’t executing my strategy as planned. After that I was thinking of those points and how I could play those points to my favour”, Zhu Yuling

Cheng I-Ching secured the first two games and had chances in the third game; one wonders had she won that game, the verdict may have been different?

Gradually, the consistency extolled by Zhu Yuling prevailed, keep calm being the clear message from Chen Bin, the Chinese National Team coach on duty in Doha and since 2010 the personal coach for Ding Ning.

Eventually, keeping the ball on the table, maintaining focus, not panicking; victory was gained, victory against a most worthy opponent, Cheng I-Ching.

World Tour Grand Finals Zhu Yuling Cheng I-Ching

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