by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
She beat the bodyguard, the player who is there to protect her Chinese colleagues from foreign invasion.
Maintaining patience and concentration, she overcame China’s Wu Yang, the no.7 seed, the player whose defeats against adversaries from beyond her nation’s boundaries can be counted on one hand; certainly you do not need an abacus to determine the answer.
Three years ago to the month, she was beaten by Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa at the quarter-final stage of the Women’s Singles event at GAC Group 2014 ITTF World Tour Kuwait Open by the very narrowest of seven game margins (9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-9, 11-6, 4-11, 16-14).
In Doha, the outcome was just as close, just as dramatic; in the vital seventh game, Natalia Partyka led 9-4, the next two points went to Wu Yang but at 10-6 it was four match points in favour of Poland.
Determined, resolute as always, Wu Yang mounted a recovery but she could not complete the recovery; Natalia Partyka was not going to let the golden opportunity escape. Three match points saved, with just one left, top spin play eventually overcame resolute defence; a tense seven games win was clinched (11-7, 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-9).
“You never know against a defender, the longer the rally, the more they can establish a rhythm to their play and the more you become tired. I have to admit that as the match came to a conclusion I was becoming a little nervous but throughout the match I tried to play my game”, Natalia Partyka.
Notably, somewhat different to many defensive players, Wu Yang uses short pimpled rubber on the backhand; it enables her to vary the degrees of backspin when defending. It causes adversary after adversary a host of problems.
“I played about 80 per cent of the time to her backhand; I was able to read the spin on the ball; when I played to her forehand there was so much backspin the ball, it was so difficult”, Natalia Partyka.
An upset and as play in the upper half of the draw in the opening round of the Women’s Singles event came to a conclusion, there was one more. Japan’s Misaki Morizono beat Turkey’s Hu Melek, the no.10 seed and reigning European champion (11-8, 9-11, 11-5, 11-8, 11-7).
Surprises but not where Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching was concerned; she beat Portugal’s Fu Yu in five games (11-5, 11-5, 8-11, 11-8, 11-3).