by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Zhang Mo confronts Zhu Yuling, the no.1 seed; Dina Meshref faces Liu Shiwen, the no.2 seed; it is for each a monumental challenge against the Chinese stars but a challenge to be relished.
At a Women’s World Cup, in Sendai two years ago Dina Meshref became the first ever player from Africa to reach the main draw , now can she achieve another first, the first ever to beat Liu Shiwen? Also she has an advantage, she is playing on home soil, she was actually born in Canada.
Likewise, for Hong Kong’s Lee Ho Ching and Sweden’s Matilda Ekholm, players who similar to Zhang Mo and Dina Meshref ended the first day of play in second positions in their respective groups, daunting tasks await.
Lee Ho Ching, the no.13 seed, confronts Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.3 seed and runner up two years ago when the tournament was staged in Sendai; Matilda Ekholm, the no.14 seed, faces the defending champion, Miu Hirano, the no.4 seed.
Zhu Yuling and Kasumi Ishikawa appear in the top half of the draw, in the same quarter of the draw as Zhu Yuling appear the names of Li Jie of the Netherlands, the no.7 seed and Austria’s Liu Jia, the no.12 seed. Over the years Liu Jia has experienced problems against defensive players but ever more confident against that style of play and with two impressive wins in the group stage under her belt Liu Jia can enter round one in a positive frame of mind; for her very first match of the tournament Li Jie faces an opponent in form and at home in the surroundings.
In the same quarter as Kasumi Ishikawa, Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching, the no.5 seed, plays Hungary’s Georgina Pota, the no.10 seed, in the opening round. Similar to Liu Jia, the Hungarian showed good form in the group phase and could well upset the pecking order. Eighth place in the 2017 ITTF-ATTU Asian Cup in Ahmedabad some six weeks ago, there is a question mark over the current form of Cheng I-Ching.
Meanwhile in the lower half of the draw, the same part as Miu Hirano, Hong Kong’s Doo Hoi Kem, the no.6 seed opposes Chinese Taipei’s Chen Szu-Yu, the no.11 seed in what appears a very evenly matched duel. Impressively Chen Szu-Yu secured first place in her initial phase group without surrendering a single game.
A tough task ahead for Doo Hoi Kem; for Elizabeta Samara, the no.8 seed, the left handed Romanian, a player with a high skill level, opposes the right handed Korean defender Suh Hyowon, the no.9 seed, the signs both in terms of status and style point in favour of the European; Liu Shiwen, should she overcame Dina Meshref, lies in wait.
Intriguing matches, the only certain fact is that at end of the second day of play, the semi-finalists will be known.