by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The traditional style of Shan Xiaona, short pimpled rubber, using one side of the racket only, causes many players problems; one of reasons being that there are very few opportunities to play against the style. It is a dying art of which Shan Xiaona is an expert.
It many cause problems to some; not to Chen Meng, her textbook technique, combined with her thorough education combined to provide the answers.
Chen Meng secured the opening three games, then she won the first three points of the next; Shan Xiaona called “Time Out”. It was a lost cause, Chen Meng surrendered just three more points; a place in the final was secured and secured in an emphatic manner.
“I didn’t expect that I would be able to win four-nil against Shan Xiaona; her playing style is the very traditional Chinese pen-holder which we seldom see any more in China. Hence we don’t have much chance to practise and prepare against such a style in our normal training. Earlier, she also defeated my teammate Zhu Yuling, so before this match, I did a lot of preparation especially against her style of play. I’m satisfied with my performance so far in Qatar, especially my match against Han Ying yesterday where I won four-two”, Chen Meng
Success for Chen Meng was to some extent a repeat of their one previous meeting on the international scene. They had confronted each other in the second round of the Women’s Singles event at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Japan Open; on that occasion Chen Meng had taken some time adjusting to the pen-hold style. She had lost the first two games before winning the next four.
Additionally, the win recorded by Chen Meng meant that an all China final beckoned; the second semi-final involved Gu Yuting and Wang Manyu.
Perhaps not quite so marked but there was a notable difference in styles. Wang Manyu is very much the close to the table right handed counter attacking player; Gu Yuting is a more dynamic left handed top spin at a rapid pace is her forte.
The verdict finished in favour of Wang Manyu but one wonders if the titanic second game had ended differently would the momentum of the contest have swung in a different direction?
“As we are teammates, we train together and are very familiar with each other and our playing styles. Today, I feel I was better prepared. In the second game, the scores were really tight and I took that game 20-18. At the World Junior Championships, there was a game that I played against another of my teammate, Wang Yidi, which ended up 20-18 as well. I really had to stay focused and not think of the results, because that would have distracted me. Each point at that time, I had to think of how I’m going to tackle each ball and to think about the process, that helped me to concentrate on the match”, Wang Manyu
Places in the final for Chen Meng and Wang Manyu; on Sunday 26th February and it will be a busy for both, they also appear in the Women’s Doubles final where they meet Korea’s Jeon Jihee and Yang Haeun.