by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
It is mathematically possibly and should she achieve the feat she will end a six year dominance of the players who secured gold for China in the Women’s Team event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
In March 2011, the name at the top of the order was that of Guo Yan; ever since that date it has always been Ding Ning, Li Xiaoxia or Liu Shiwen. Now with Li Xiaoxia retired and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games ever closer, the quest for Chen Meng is to be a member of the illustrious group.
Arguably Zhu Yuling has staked a strong claim for consideration by winning the recent ATTU-ITTF Asian Cup in Ahmedabad but there is a great deal of water to flow under the bridge before the team for Tokyo is announced. No doubt being the no.1 player on planet earth will do the cause of Cheng Meng no harm.
However, in her half of the draw is a colleague who may well prove a difficult hurdle to overcome, Sun Yingsha, whilst Wang Manyu is in the same quarter. Earlier this year on the Seamaster 2017 ITTF world Tour in Qatar and Australia, Chen Meng beat Wang Manyu in the final but conversely in the title deciding contest in Japan, lost to Sun Yingsha.
Both Wang Manyu and Sun Yingsha are amongst a group of players trying to prove they are worthy of stepping into illustrious shoes, another is Gu Yuting. Notably, she plays Japan’s Miu Hirano in the opening round, the sensational winner earlier in the year of the Women’s Singles event at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF Asian Championships in Wuxi. However, Miu Hirano has never beaten Gu Yuting; earlier this year on the Seamaster ITTF World Tour, Gu Yuting prevailed in Qatar and Australia.
Speed is the hallmark of Gu Yuting; in the counterpart Men’s Singles event, it is also the stamp of colleague Lin Gaoyang, a player like his female counterpart, who is try to establish himself amongst the country’s elite.
Winner of the ATTU-ITTF Asian some four days ago, in his opening contest he faces another left hander in form; he opposes Marcos Freitas, integral to Portugal’s silver medal success at the recent Liebherr 2017 World Team Championships in Luxembourg.
Fascinating, as is the contest that kick fires the Men’s Singles event into action; Wong Chun Ting, the top seed but totally out of sorts at the ATTU-ITTF Asian Cup, meets Egypt’s effervescent Omar Assar now more motivated than ever knowing he is en route to the Liebherr Men’s World Cup later in the year.
The first round of the Women’s Singles event is scheduled to start at 2.00pm (local time), the Men’s Singles event one hour later.