by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
A win as seeding predicted for the no.4 seed but make no mistake, her adversary, Li Xiaodan was a most worthy opponent. More exposure to international play in recent months and years, she would undoubtedly command a high world ranking and would have been seeded in Stockholm as opposed to being required to compete in the qualification tournament.
Exhilarating rallies, in a hard fought contest, Kasumi Ishikawa prevailed in seven games (8-11, 12-10, 11-9, 9-11, 12-10, 5-11, 11-4)
The key that opened the door to victory came in the seventh game, the point that took Kasumi Ishikawa from 4-2 to 5-3; that three point gap was vital. The players changed ends, there was an air of panic on the next point from Li Xiaodan; an attempted forehand top spin, rushed, tense, flew long, Kasumi Ishikawa had breathing space. She tightened the grip, at 10-4 she held six match points; at the second attempt she converted.
“I’m happy, I played with no nerves; she plays so very fast. In the seventh game I served long when the score was 4-2, won the point. I felt secure in the passive game when I had to block.” Kasumi Ishikawa.
Outstanding from one left hander, it was the same from another; China’s Gu Yuting, like Li Xiaodan required to compete in the qualification tournament, she overcame Cheng I-Ching, the young lady from Chinese Taipei being forced to retire at the end of the fourth game to protect a back injury (11-7, 8-11, 11-6, 11-7, 11-0).
It was unfortunate that Cheng I-Ching had to withdraw from the contest against Gu Yuting; at the start of the day her back had been strapped with bandages to give support. Perhaps two Women’s Doubles contests earlier in the day had taken their toll.
However, Gu Yuting was in control of proceedings, a much more mature player than the one on whom I first set eyes at the World Junior Championships in 2009 in the northern Colombian city of Cartagena de India; on that occasion I saw a 14 year old who played fast, faster and even faster.
Now in Stockholm, her speed was again evident, her first attack too quick for Cheng I-Ching but a vital factor when involved in passive play and blocking was needed she was stable and secure.
“I think one of my major improvements is that I now spin the first ball, safer with first attack; also, today I felt confident with my short play.” Gu Yuting
Success for Kasumi Ishikawa and Gu Yuting; also, in the top half of the draw in the all-Chinese contests, there were victories for Ding Ning and Zhang Qiang. Ding Ning, the top seed, beat Chen Ke (11-9, 11-6, 11-7, 11-5); Zhang Qiang accounted for Sun Mingyang (11-9, 11-7, 8-11, 11-8, 11-5).
At the quarter-final stage Ding Ning meets Zhang Qiang, Gu Yuting opposes Kasumi Ishikawa.
The matches will be played later in the evening.