by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The only problem she faces is that in the final, the present holder of the two prestigious titles awaits, a certain Ding Ning.
At the semi-final stage of proceedings on the evening of Saturday 18th November, Chen Xingtong beat compatriot Zhu Yuling, the no.2 seed (4-11, 11-6, 11-8, 11-8, 11-6); the win coming after Ding Ning had ended the hopes of Japan’s Kasumi Ishikawa, the no.4 seed (11-9, 11-9, 11-8, 11-6).
Sufficient to book a semi-final place was the general assessment of the performance executed by China’s Ding Ning the previous day as she progressed relatively untroubled through the first two rounds; in the penultimate round the assessment was rather different assessment.
Totally committed, the level of her play was at least ten per cent higher than her prior encounters in Stockholm.
Defeat in four straight games was a rather cruel outcome for Kasumi Ishikawa, she played well and traded blow for blow; the result is not the outcome she desired, the performance was most desirable.
The first two games summed up Ding Ning, the sheer strength of character at crucial moments. There may be players of a similar playing level but can anyone match the inner determination and willpower of the 27 year old?
In the third game that strength of character was even more evident. Ding Ning trailed 6-8; then promptly won the next five points. Kasumi Ishikawa did nothing wrong, she did not make unforced errors; quite simply Ding Ning was not to be denied.
Three games to nil ahead, in the fourth game Ding Ning advanced to 7-4; options evaporating, Ding Ning called “Time Out”. It was in vain, at 10-5, Ding Ning held five match points; the first was saved, not the second.
“I think my level was higher today than yesterday, my opponent was very strong, I think that help raise my level. Also, I think the atmosphere in the hall today helped; there is just one table, the crowd is focused on the match, there are no other matches to cause distractions.” Ding Ning
Success as anticipated for Zhu Yuling; the win recorded by Chen Xingtong was an upset.
Controlling the play, Zhu Yuling won the opening game but the next two went to the very active Chen Xingtong. In the fourth game Chen Xingtong went ahead 8-4, marginally the more positive player. Zhu Yuling reduced the arrears but never gained parity; Chen Xingtong held a two games advantage.
Fast quick-fire exchanges, in the fifth game Chen Xingtong gained an early lead; it was a lead she never relinquished, confidence grew, at 10-6 she held match point, she did not need another opportunity.
“I played to a good standard today, Zhu Yuling is very consistent so I had to top spin the ball as much as possible. However, the most important fact today was that I mentally very stable.” Chen Xingtong
Success against the player currently listed at no.1 on the Women’s World Rankings; now an even greater task awaits; surely a challenge Chen Xingtong will relish.