by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The names of Ding Ning, Li Xiaoxia and Liu Shiwen, the spearhead of the successful outfit at the Perfect 2016 World Team Championships in Kuala Lumpur and later in the year at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, do not appear on the entry list in Astana.
In alphabetical order Chen Meng, Chen Xingtong, Gu Yuting, Wang Manyu and Zhu Yuling form the entry; with the greatest of respect to all other competitors, evidence strongly suggests that from that group the winner will appear and with Chen Meng and Wang Manyu being the respective top two seeds and thus in opposite halves of the draw, so will the runner up.
The question posed is on whom are you going to place your hard earned Kazakhstani Tenge; 333 coins of the local currency equating to about one dollar.
Considering this year’s Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour, the most successful member of the group is Cheng Meng, arguably the most powerful member of the quintet. She won in Qatar, Australia and in Germany. Meanwhile, less powerful but incredibly consistent, Wang Manyu succeeded in Austria, notably beating Gu Yuting in the final, a young lady who has yet to secure and ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles title but does have the honour of being the first ever Youth Olympic Games Women’s Singles gold medallist and a former World Junior champion.
At the recent Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Swedish Open, Gu Yuting experienced a seven games defeat at the hands of Japan’s splendid Kasumi Ishikawa but she impressed. It was a much more controlled player, lightning speed has been a factor in the play of Gu Yuting, it has also been her downfall, too impetuous; in Stockholm a much more mature player was on duty. The reverse in Sweden’s capital city could prove the result to spark the 22 year to greater heights, Gu Yuting and her coaches will have done their homework.
No Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Women’s Singles title this year for Gu Yuting, it is the same for Zhu Yuling, in fact just one final; in Germany she was beaten in the gold medal contest by Chen Meng. However, winning the Uncle Pop 2017 ITTF Women’s World Cup presented by Polar Naturals and rising to no.1 on the Women’s World Rankings is more than compensation.
Consistent in the extreme, standing on top of the World order suggests that she is the favourite to reserve the top step of the podium when play concludes on Sunday 17th December in Astana.
However, if there is one player who may well upset the seeding and on whom you may receive longer odds, it is Chen Xingtong, the winner of the Women’s Singles title at the first Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour tournament of the year in Hungary and the winner of the last in Sweden.
Now 20 years old, medals at World Junior Championships but never the winner, is she not coming good at exactly to right time in her career? Undoubtedly, she is the player in form.
In Stockholm, very much the complete player with a lighting forehand, she beat Chen Meng at the quarter-final stage of the Women’s Singles event, one round later Zhu Yuling, before in the final overcoming the redoubtable Ding Ning. Accepted Ding Ning was returning to international action after a five month break and was not fully fit but to beat the player with the strongest will power in the world in any sport is no mean feat.
Five names to note from China but above all I suggest you note the name of Chen Xingtong, no question she has the skill now does she have the mental strength to win in Astana, to win one of the really big events? We will soon know the answer.