by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Once common denominator, there were two more; they followed each other on the same table and they beat players in a most emphatic manner who are at the vanguard of Japan’s bid for glory on home soil at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Gu Yuting overcame Miu Hirano, the no.8 seed and whatever riches she may be destined to achieve, she will always be remembered as the first player to win the Women’s World Cup not representing China. Ominously, Gu Yuting, after losing the opening game, accelerated to victory (7-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-5, 11-5).
“I lost the first game to Hirano because I was not used to her serves and the rhythm of her playing style. After that game, I adjusted and changed my tactics and took more initiative. I think it’s mainly my change in mentality in the match that helped me to turn the tide. I stayed calm to find my own rhythm in the game. I haven’t been playing any international matches so almost a year; it feels great to be back. It feels exciting, but I’m nervous at the same time. It’s bit hard finding back the momentum after missing out from international play for so long”, Gu Yuting
Success for Gu Yuting in an impressive manner, it was even more imposing from Wang Manyu, in a contest where she displayed not once ounce of charity.
She beat Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.2 seed, in four straight games (11-4, 11-8, 11-4, 11-6); not an ounce of charity, it was Kasumi Ishikawa’s 24th birthday!
Two upsets and there were two more as play in the lower half of the draw in the first round of the Women’s Singles event came to a close.
Li Jie of the Netherlands caused Japan more pain; in a long drawn out duel that required the Expedite Rule to be invoked, she accounted for Hitomi Sato, the no.14 seed (10-12, 6-11, 11-9, 11-8, 11-9, 3-11, 11-9).
Defeats for Japan against the odds but there was one in the reverse direction. Miyu Kato ended the hopes of Korea’s Jeon Jihee, the no.12 seed (15-13, 13-15, 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 10-12, 11-4).
Similarly, there was defeat for Hong Kong; the Slovak Republic’s Barbora Balazova, who only reserved her place in the main draw by securing first place in her group on games ratio, ended the aspirations of Tie Yana, the no.11 seed (12-10, 10-12, 11-9, 16-14, 11-9).
Problems for leading names as the first round of the Women’s Singles event concluded; not for Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, nor for Japan’s Mima Ito.
Feng Tianwei, the no.3 seed, accounted for Minnie Soo Wai Yam, like Tie Yana from Hong Kong (11-5, 8-11, 13-11, 11-7, 11-6): Mima Ito, the no.6 seed, halted any ambitions harboured by Feng Tianwei’s compatriot, Zeng Jian (4-11, 13-11, 9-11, 11-4, 13-11, 11-9).