by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Miu Hirano was very much the player to shine; just as some seven months ago Miu Hirano had beaten Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching in the final of the Seamaster 2016 Women’s World Cup in Philadelphia, in Wuxi, she repeated the feat.
In a most emphatic manner, the no.10 seed, she overcame Cheng I-Ching, the no.6 seed, in three straight games (11-6, 11-1, 11-9).
A comprehensive win for Miu Hirano; for Wu Yang and Choe Hyon Wa, the full five games were needed. The defensive skills of Wu Yang, the no.9 seed, eventually overcame Miu Hirano’s colleague, Mima Ito, the no.7 seed (11-9, 6-11, 11-6, 3-11, 11-3).
Similarly Choe Hyon Wa, not seeded, was involved in a tense duel before defeating Korea Republic’s Yang Haeun, the no.14 seed (11-5, 9-11, 14-12, 8-11, 11-7).
“My overall performance was good. I encountered some problems but I fixed them. I have never played against Mima Ito before, for today’s match I watched clips of her previous match so I know a bit of her technique and her strategy. She’s rather fast, very fast. In the third game, I was 1-4 behind; I felt I was playing too safe, so I changed my strategy. Throughout the whole match, I did not quite catch the pace of the match. Xiao Zhan, my coach, told me to slow down a bit, to play in my own tempo.” Wu Yang
Three somewhat unexpected outcomes but I would suggest that the success recorded by Wu Yang was the least unexpected; currently she is the best female defensive player in the world.
However, approaching the tournament, she was not necessarily in the best of form; earlier this year she had been beaten by Poland’s Natalia Partyka in the opening round of the Women’s Singles event at the Seamaster 2016 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open (11-7, 9-11, 11-9, 9-11, 11-4, 4-11, 11-9).
“There is almost no spin on the ball, it’s quite a disadvantage for defenders like me; really challenging. In Qatar, my physical and mental condition was not good. I did not realise until I’m on court but then it’s too late”, Wu Yang
Success for Wu Yang, for her colleagues, it was success but without the need for a deciding game.
Ding Ning ended the adventures of Thailand’s unseeded Suthasini Sawettabut (8-11, 11-3, 12-10, 11-8); Liu Shiwen beat DPR Korea’s Kim Song I, the no.13 seed (11-5, 11-8, 11-8), whilst Zhu Yuling overcame Korea Republic’s Suh Hyowon, the no.15 seed (11-7, 11-4, 11-3).
“This is our first encounter, she played really well today; her technique is good. She was very aggressive and made some shots that were not within my expectation. I think I was able to win because I was well prepared today.” Ding Ning
“My feeling is fine right now. I can play against the best players. In the first game, I kept concentrating and attacked when I have the chance. Earlier today I beat Doo Hoi Kem, I feel I’ve played well.” Suthasini Sawettabut
Likewise, not to be left out, Cheng Meng, the no.5 seed, defeated Japan’s Miyu Kato, like Suthsini Sawettabut, not seeded (11-3, 7-11, 11-5, 11-8).
Meanwhile, in the one remaining round four duel; Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, the no.4 seed, eventually overcame Japan’s Hina Hayata, the no.12 seed (11-5, 8-11, 13-11, 15-13).
At the quarter-final stage Ding Ning meets Miu Hirano, Wu Yang opposes Zhu Yuling; in the opposite half of the draw it is Feng Tianwei versus Chen Meng, Liu Shiwen in opposition to Choe Hyon Wa.