by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Notably all have one factor in common for what will be the 31st staging of an ITTF World Tour tournament in China, the country has organised such an event every year since inauguration in 1996 and, with the exception of 2010, between 2004 and 2013, two were held annually.
All have won the Women’s Singles title; Ding Ning in 2014 and 2016, Liu Shiwen emerged successful in both 2009 tournaments whilst in 2015, Zhu Yuling prevailed. Notably the two wins recorded by Ding Ning and the successes gained by Zhu Yuling were at the expense of Liu Shiwen.
Likewise, Chen Meng, the fourth member of the Chinese elite and the fifth seed in Chengdu, has also lifted the Women’s Singles trophy at an ITTF World Tour title in China; she won in 2012 and 2013; the common factor with Ding Ning and Zhu Yuling, on both occasions she beat Liu Shiwen in the final.
Now if one member of the fab four has a point to prove and over whom there may be a question mark, it is Chen Meng. Notably she has experienced defeats in two major recent finals. Two months ago she suffered at the hands of Japan’s Miu Hirano at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF Asian Championships in Wuxi, one day ago in the final of the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Platinum Lion Japan China Open, when, after holding a three-one lead against Sun Yingsha, she surrendered the next three games.
In Tokyo, she avenged the Wuxi defeat; now in Chengdu it is not necessarily a case of revenge, as Sun Yingsha is a colleague, but a semi-final finish would do her confidence and credibility no harm at all.
Listed one place above Chen Meng in the seeding is Singapore’s Feng Tianwei, like Chen Meng she suffered at the hands of Sun Yingsha in Tokyo; she will be seeking a return to the winning ways of 2011 in Shenzhen when she beat Liu Shiwen in the semi-finals prior to losing to Wen Jia, also from China, in the final.
Next in line to Chen Meng is Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, she is the sixth seed, compatriot Miu Hirano followed by Germany’s Han Ying completes the top eight names. Alongside Feng Tianwei, they have a prodigious task.
Only once has a player, not representing China at the time, won the Women’s Singles title at an ITTF World Tour tournament staged in China.
Now 20 years ago, in 1997 Germany’s Jing Tian-Zörner won in Zhuhai, she beat Luxembourg’s Ni Xialian in the final. She is the only defensive player to have won the title; a tough ask for Han Ying.
Ding Ning, Liu Shiwen and Zhu Yuling start the favourites for gold but there might be just one player they wish to avoid, a 16 year old who must start her journey in the qualification tournament, a certain Sun Yingsha.