by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Notably, in addition to winning last year in engubai, Liu Shiwen also emerged successful in 2010 in Guangzhou as well as in consecutive years, once again in Guangzhou in 2012 and in 2013 when the tournament was staged in Hong Kong.
No other player has ever won the title on more than two occasions and the only other player to have claimed the crown in consecutive years is Guo Yue, also from China; she won in Sapporo in 2008 and retained the title one year later in Hangzhou.
Four times the winner of the Asian Cup, in addition Liu Shiwen has won the Women’s World Cup on the same number of occasions; the only players who can match that feat are her now retired compatriots, Wang Nan and Zhang Yining.
Now in 2017, Liu Shiwen has a major opportunity to surpass the record of Zhang Yining; the top three players in Ahmedabad, qualify directly for Uncle Pop 2017 ITTF Women’s World Cup to be staged in Markham, Toronto later this year in October. No doubt when the final lists are announced, according to world ranking, further places will be available.
Success after success for Liu Shiwen but she does not harbour the happiest memories of India; two years ago when the event was staged in Jaipur, she was beaten in the final by Singapore’s Feng Tianwei. The silver medal was her lot, with colleague Zhu Yuling having to settle for bronze; in the group phase she had also experienced defeat at the hands of the Singaporean.
All three appear on the Ahmedabad entry list, Zhu Yuling and Liu Shiwen are the respective top two seeds; Feng Tianwei is the no.4 seed with Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa being next in line.
However, it is the player who occupies the no.3 seeded spot on whom many eyes will focus, Miu Hirano; the sensational winner of the Seamaster 2016 ITTF Women’s World Cup and earlier this year victorious at the Seamaster 2017 Asian Championships in Wuxi when against all expectations, the Japanese teenager accounted for the Chinese trio of Ding Ning, Zhu Yuling and Chen Meng to seal the title.
The incredible performance extolled by Miu Hirano overshadowed the fact that earlier in the Women’s Team event in Wuxi, she was beaten by Liu Shiwen. Additionally, Liu Shiwen prevailed when they met at the Suzuki 2015 Asian Championships and most pertinently just over one year ago at the 2016 Nakheel Asian Cup in Dubai.
In Wuxi, Miu Hirano became only the third player representing Japan since the Asian Championships came under the authority of the Asian Table Tennis Union, to win the Women’s Singles title, the others being Tomie Edano in 1974 and Chire Koyama (the former He Zhili when in the colours of China) in 1996.
If she can repeat the feat at the 2017 ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup, she will become the first; no Japanese player has ever secured the Women’s title.
(Photo: Rémy Gros)