by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Zhu Yuling eventually overcame the defensive skill of Li Jie of the Netherlands, the no.7 seed, having endured nervous moments in the second and third games (11-3, 6-11, 11-9, 11-3, 11-5). Liu Shiwen, never seriously troubled, ended the hopes of Romania’s Elizabeta Samara, the no.8 seed, in straight games (11-4, 11-6, 11-7, 11-3).
Against Elizabeta Samara, pivotal to Romania’s success in the Women’s Team event at the recent Liebherr 2017 European Championships, Liu Shiwen was quickly into her stride.
Subtle variations of service, seizing the initiative at the earliest possible opportunity and as always a model of consistency, she captured the first three games in style. Elizabeta Samara, taking risks in her efforts to gain parity, made errors as she was given minimal time to exercise her undoubted skills.
A fast start in the opening three games, in the fourth it was no different. Liu Shiwen able to respond to every move executed by her adversary, established a 6-1 lead, she progressed to 10-2, the stage at which Elizabeta Samara moved into exhibition mode, retreating to the surrounds and executing high lobbed returns away from the table.
In fact she did rather better with the tactic than earlier in the game!
She won one point with an un-returnable edge and then another when a forehand from Liu Shiwen finished in the base of the net. However, she could make it three in row; just as when they had met in the final of the Women’s World Cup in Huangshi in 2012, Liu Shiwen had prevailed in a dominant manner (11-4, 11-6, 11-7, 11-3), it was same again in Markham.
Comparatively comfortable for Liu Shiwen, for Zhu Yuling, life was more exacting. Confronting Li Jie, she won the opening game in a positive manner but as Li Jie warmed to the task, Zhu Yuling showed signs of hesitancy.
Advised by colleague, Li Jiao, the player who had beaten Zhu Yuling at the quarter-final stage of the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Sendai, the Chinese stars only other appearance in the competition, Li Jie responded. Prepared to turn defence into attack with a forehand top spin, she secured the second game before in the third establishing a 7-5 lead. Zhu Yuling levelled at 8-all prior to eventually moving to 10-8; she secured the game at the second opportunity.
Success by the narrowest of margins but more importantly for Zhu Yuling it was a confidence boost and a pivotal moment in the engagement. Zhu Yuling dominated the fourth game before in the fifth, after being level at 5-all, she won the next six points to secure victory.
At the semi-final stage Zhu Yuling meets Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching; Liu Shiwen opposes Japan’s Miu Hirano. Play is scheduled to start at 2.00pm (local time) on Sunday 29th October, the concluding day of play in Markham.