by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Neither seeded, neither the owner of a current World ranking, Gu Yuting beat Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, the no.3 seed, in straight games (11-8, 11-6, 11-5, 14-12); after, in one game more, Wang Manyu had accounted for Japan’s Mima Ito, the no.6 seed (11-3, 11-9, 11-5, 7-11, 11-6)
Prior to the contest which started the afternoon session of play, the odds favoured Wang Manyu, even though she has no current World ranking and Mima Ito is listed at no.6. The duo had met on two prior occasions, both times Wang Manyu had won. In 2014 she had prevailed on the ITTF World Tour in Korea and later in the year at the Wisdom World Junior Championships in Shanghai.
In Doha, advised by Li Sun, the Chinese National Coach who had guided the likes of Zhang Yining and Li Xiaoxia to Olympic gold, Wang Manyu, displayed similar qualities to those that had enabled her illustrious predecessors to reach the pinnacle.
Rock solid from the backhand, able to absorb attacking play and turn to advantage, Wang Manyu made the best possible start against Mima Ito; she won the first six points of the opening game.
The die was cast, the fast attacking strokes executed from the backhand of Mima Ito, the side of the racket on which she uses short pimpled rubber, were absorbed; after losing the first three games Mima Ito led 4-1 in the fourth but at 4-all it was parity, Mima Ito elected for “Time Out” at 4-all.
Undaunted, to her great credit, she reduced the errors and secured the fourth game; a chance, the chance was extinguished, Wang Manyu clinched the fifth game without ever being in too much danger. Just to make absolutely sure, she elected for a “Time Out” at 9-5; a pause for thought and with a goal in mind, victory was secured.
“Overall I performed normal, there were not many exciting points because I prepared well against her playing style; my strategy was to win points within the first three strokes. Ito always makes some changes. It took me about two or three points to adapt to her changes, after that, things were smoother. In the last game, I was leading 9-1 at the start but then I got anxious to win fast. It ended up with more errors from my side. She took the chance to attack more and came back. The Time Out at 9-5 was also to calm myself down and re-adjust myself”, Wang Manyu
Supreme control secured Wang Manyu a place in the semi-finals; for Gu Yuting, it was speed and a fluent forehand top spin that gave Feng Tianwei minimal time respond. The only real moment when her supporters had cause to fell nervous, was as victory loomed.
Leading by three games to nil, in the fourth game when ahead 9-6, she elected for “Time Out”; at 10-7 she held three match points. Feng Tianwei saved all three and then saved two more before victory was secured.
“After playing four matches, I think I’m getting more relaxed than before. I enjoyed that match just now, because Feng Tianwei is a World Champion; this is a very good learning experience for me to play against her”, Gu Yuting
At the semi-final stage Gu Yuting meets Wang Manyu.