by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The success came after Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, the no.4 seed, had been forced to withdraw from proceedings, a swollen left ankle being the problem; thus China’s Chen Meng, the no.9 seed, who had arrived in the hall some 90 minutes prior to the scheduled contest in order to practise, received a walk-over.
However, Chen Meng was not Cheng I-Ching’s favourite adversary; they had met twice before in World ranking events, Chen Meng had won on both occasions. She had prevailed at the 2013 East Asian Games and at the GAC Group 2015 ITTF World Tour Japan Open.
“I have an injury, my left ankle is swollen, so I cannot move, I must withdraw”, Cheng I-Ching
Conversely, it was the first time on the international scene that Shan Xiaona and Natalia Partyka had confronted each other. World ranking suggested that Shan Xiaona started the clear favourite, she was listed at no.22 and the no.16 seed in Doha, Natalia Partyka was named at no.78 and had been required to compete in the two day qualification tournament.
Some 50 places in the global order but both were in outstanding form in Doha; both had ended Chinese hopes. In the opening round, Natalia Partyka had beaten Wu Yang, the no.7 seed; one round later, Shan Xiaona had accounted for Zhu Yuling, the top seed.
A close contest anticipated; that was the situation in the opening game when both had opportunities. The key to success was a strong first attack after the service.
It was the fast attack, from the pen-hold style of Shan Xiaona, short pimpled rubber, the ball travelling at a low trajectory that prevailed as opposed the top spin technique of Natalia Partyka.
The well-worn phrase, win a close game and confidence blossoms, was never more apt; Shan Xiaona went from strength to strength. In the fourth game there were signs of a Natalia Partyka revival, she led 7-3 but Shan Xiaona recovered to 8-all and never looked back.
At the semi-final stage Shan Xiaona meets Chen Meng.