by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Only three other players have won the Women’s Singles title on more than one occasion; notably her colleague, Wang Yuegu being one member of the select group. She emerged successful in 2006 and 2010.
The two further names are true legends of the sport, China’s Wang Nan and Zhang Yining. Wang Nan is the clear leader having won on less than four occasions; she emerged successful in 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2007. Meanwhile, Zhang Yining is one behind her colleague and rival, she was crowned champion in 2004, 2005 and 2008.
A chance for Feng Tianwei to gain parity with Zhang Yining but if that is to happen then she will have to find the form that saw her beat Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen in the memorable Women’s final at the Liebherr 2010 World Team Championships in Moscow.
China’s Chen Meng, the Women’s Singles winner in 2015 is the no.2 seed, followed by Kasumi Ishikawa who heads a strong host nation challenge for honours. Miu Hirano is the no.5 seed with Hitomi Sato and Mima Ito completing to the top eight names. Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching is the no.4 seed, Germany’s Han Ying the no.6 seed.
Undoubtedly following the Mixed Doubles gold medal secured at the recent Liebherr 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf in partnership with Maharu Yoshimura, eyes are honed on Kasumi Ishikawa. Similarly, the bronze secured by Miu Hirano in the Women’s Singles competition puts her in the limelight as a major challenger.
However, history relates that a Japanese win is not the norm; in 21 editions of the tournament the only home winner is Ai Fukuhara. She won in 2013 when beating Korea’s Moon Hyunjung in the title decider.
History may be against a Japanese win and there may be another factor for every one of the 16 seeded players to beware.
In particular note the names of China’s Wang Manyu and Chen Xingtong. Both must compete in the qualification tournament but both have gained podium finishes on this year’s Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour.
Crowned World Junior champion in 2014 and again in 2015, Wang Manyu was the runner up in February in Qatar, beaten by Chen Meng in the final; one month earlier Chen Xingtong had won in Hungary.
Also add to the new generation Chinese list the names of Chen Ke, semi-finalist at the 2014 and 2015 World Junior Championships and Sun Yingsha, runner up last year at the China Junior and Cadet Open.
A surprise winner in Tokyo; one fact is certain in the Women’s Singles event, no seeded player will relish the thought of facing any of those four young ladies in the opening round.