by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Theoretically according to seeding both were upset, in reality neither outcome was a surprise.
Miu Hirano may have been finished the year higher on the ITTF World Women’s Singles Standings than Han Ying but the odds prior to the contest were very much in favour of the technically very correct 33 year old backspin player.
They had met on three prior occasions on the international scene; on the ITTF World Tour in 2014 in Kuwait and the following year in the Czech Republic. Earlier this year they had met again in Kuwait when Han Ying needed the full seven games to secure victory.
In Doha it was a very different scenario; Han Ying controlled matters from start to finish to become the player representing a European country to reach the Women’s Singles gold medal contest at an ITTF World Tour Grand Finals.
“Today I had a good balance between attack and defence, I felt confident. Last time when we played in Kuwait I won the first three games but then Miu Hirano played much stronger than today. I was prepared for a tough match, I’m surprised that I won so easily”, Han Ying.
Hindsight is a wonderful method of judging; the contest against Han Ying was for Miu Hirano a match too far. She had played in the Sun International World Junior Championships and then travelled to Doha; to reach the semi-final stage of the Women’s Singles event at the Seamaster Qatar 2016 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, when only 16 years old, was an outstanding achievement.
“Miu Hirano and Mima Ito are both tired, they have been travelling such a lot, to South Africa for the World Junior Championships; her neither was 100 per cent and it was difficult for them to find motivation”, Jie Schöpp (German coach).
Memorably, Kasumi Ishikawa had beaten Zhu Yuling in the Girls’ Team final at the 2010 World Junior Championships in Bratislava but of the other eight encounters, she had just one win to her credit; that being at the GAC Group 2013 Austrian Open in Linz.
In Doha, after a close first game, Zhu Yuling seized control; Han Ying being a defender is a player with immense patience, in the style of Zhu Yuling patience is also present but in a different manner. She tests her opponent’s patience because she is so consistent; the adversary presses hard trying to penetrate the close to the table counter attacking skills of Zhu Yuling and in so doing makes mistakes.
Notably, in the previous round that had been the fate of Cheng I-Ching, it was the same for Zhu Yuling.
Finalists decided in the Women’s Singles event and not the best of news for Japan; it was the same in the Under 21 Women’s Singles competition. Six players from the Land of the Rising Sun commenced proceedings; an all Japanese final was a distinct possibility.
Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem ended the hopes of such an option. She beat Miyu Kato in seven games (11-7, 9-11, 5-11, 11-3, 5-11, 11-8, 11-6) to book her place in the title deciding contest where she opposes Hina Hayata. In the counterpart semi-final, Hina Hayata accounted for Japanese national team colleague, Yui Hamamoto (11-6, 11-2, 6-11, 11-7, 7-11, 11-9).
The final is scheduled for 10.00am on Sunday 11th December; immediately following will be the Under 21 Men’s Singles final.