by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Notably, after recovering from a two games to nil deficit to beat Ding Ning (3-11, 12-14, 11-9, 16-14, 12-10), she did not experience another reverse. In straight games, she accounted for Zhu Yuling (11-7, 11-9, 11-8) and Chen Meng (11-9, 11-8, 11-7) to claim the title.
When was the last time in a major international tournament or in any tournament for that matter, when three front line Chinese players lost one after each other to a foreign opponent?
Discussions with Richard Scruton, the Secretary-General of the European Table Tennis Union, the answer on which we are of one accord is the 1977 World Championships in Birmingham; 40 years ago!
On that occasion, with matches best of five games and each game to 21 points, DPR Korea’s Pak Yung Sun completed the feat on her way to winning the Women’s Singles title. After beating Romania’s Maria Alexandru (21-10, 21-14, 21-8), she ended Chinese hopes in a not too dissimilar fashion to that achieved by Miu Hirano four decades later.
She dropped just one game; at the quarter-final stage she beat Chu Hsian-Yu (23-21, 21-19, 21-16), before accounting for Ke Hsin-Ai (21-18, 21-18, 13-21, 21-18) and Chang Li (21-15, 24-22, 24-20) to secure the top step of the podium.
Now 40 years on, the result is that on the newly issued Women’s World Rankings, Miu Hirano moves from no.11 to a career high figure of no.8, her previous best being no.9 last year in November and earlier this year in January and February.
Additionally, she replaces colleague Mima Ito in the no.1 spot on both the Under 21 Women’s World Rankings and Under 18 Girls’ World Rankings. On each list Mima Ito is now at no.2, with Hitomi Sato dropping one place to no.3 on the former and Hina Hayata retaining the no.3 spot on the latter.
Furthermore, on the Women’s World Rankings Hina Hayata advances to from no.21 to no.16, the highest status of her career; her prior best being no.18 last October. Also, not to be left out, Minami Ando, the Under 21 Women’s Singles winner at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Korea Open, makes the giant stride from her previous highest of no.103, to no.67.
A new Japanese generation is making its presence felt and they better look over their shoulders; in the immediate future they may well face a severe challenge for places.
In the youngest age group the next Japanese generation is waiting in the wings. Miyu Nagasaki and Miyuu Kihara continue to head the Under 15 Girls’ World Rankings with Amy Wang of the United States replacing compatriot, Crystal Wang in third place.
The efforts of the exciting Japanese teenagers, especially those of Miu Hirano, overshadow the fact that Ding Ning retains top spot on the Women’s World Rankings for the eighth consecutive edition and the 43rd time in her career.
Equally, the return of China’s Liu Shiwen in the no.2 spot is put somewhat in the shadows. The effect is that for the next in line it is a drop of one place; Zhu Yuling is now at no.4, followed by Singapore’s Feng Tianwei. Cheng Meng remains in fifth place ahead of Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa who falls two places to no.6.
Likewise, it is down the order for Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching; she is now one place lower at no.7, one ahead of Miu Hirano. Mima Ito and Hitomi Sato share the no.10 spot with China’s Wu Yang completing the top 12 names. On the previous list for April 2017, Mima Ito was at no.8, Hitomi Sato at no.9 with Wu Yang being in the no.10 spot.
One place lower for Hitomi Sato, it seems a little harsh; in April she hardly put a foot wrong! She won on the ITTF Challenge Series in Belarus and Slovenia.
The player to depart the top 12 names is Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem; she is now one place lower at no.13. Notable progress and there is also most worthy progress for Chinese Taipei’s Cheng Hsien-Tzu, semi-finalist at the recent ITTF Challenge Slovenian Open in Otocec, she climbs from no.96 to no.81.
Climbing the ladder and there are most worthy names, those who have enjoyed ITTF World Tour success, returning to the global order. Singapore’s Yu Mengyu reappears at no.23, DPR Korea’s Kim Song I at no.26 and Korea Republic’s Kim Kyunah at no.46.
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