by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Now the next step for the 22 year old is to achieve the same feat at senior level and secure her place amongst the very elite of her nation’s female players; Markham, Toronto provides an opportunity.
In 2016 at the Perfect World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur, as later in the year at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the chosen first team was Ding Ning, Liu Shiwen and Li Xiaoxia; now with the retirement of Li Xiaoxia, there is a vacancy. Accepted, there may be more but consider the history of Chinese selections, those who have been there before, savoured the taste of the premier events, tend to keep their places. One new face is added as opposed to total revolution.
Chen Meng, not present in Markham, is a clear contender whilst on this year’s Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour, both Sun Yingsha and Wang Manyu have been particular impressive.
It is for Zhu Yuling, only her second appearance in a Women’s World Cup; she competed in 2015 in Sendai and did not perform as expected. She was beaten in six games at the quarter-final stage by Li Jiao of the Netherlands; make no mistake twice the European champion, Li Jiao was no mean opponent but Zhu Yuling commenced the contest the clear favourite.
However, fast forward to 2017 and this year have we not seen a Zhu Yuling who has been able to respond on the big stage? Perhaps as a result of an unexpected defeat?
Pertinently, she was beaten by Japan’s Miu Hirano at the semi-final stage of the Women’s Singles event at the Seamaster 2017 Asian Championships in Wuxi, the defending champion in Wuxi. Seemingly it was a wake up call, at the Liebherr 2017 World Championships in Düsseldorf, she reached the final, losing to colleague Ding Ning; later in the year, she emerged successful at the ITTF-Asian Cup in Ahmedabad.
Notable performances; but perhaps more pertinent is the name of the player she beat in the semi-final in Düsseldorf and in the final in Ahmedabad.
She beat the player who is the no.2 seed in Markham, the player who has won the Women’s World Cup title four times, on every occasions she has competed. She beat Liu Shiwen, could the unblemished record be in jeopardy, in severe jeopardy?
Moreover, can Zhu Yuling justify her exalted status?