by Simon Daish
The opening tie of the day came in the Women’s Team competition as Japan and China fought it out for the first trophy on offer in London. Japan occupied the no.1 seeding position but it was the second seeded team which came away celebrating with a 3-0 victory.
China made a blistering start to the match through Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen with the Women’s Doubles World champions inflicting a three games to one defeat on the Japanese national champions Hina Hayata and Mima Ito (11-7, 11-6, 6-11, 11-8).
“We were well prepared for the final, the atmosphere is very good in the arena; most certainly it was important to win the opening match and give our team a good start.” Liu Shiwen [China]
Then it was the turn of Zhu Yuling to take to the table for the Chinese team; victorious over Kasumi Ishikawa in seven of the previous eight encounters against the Japanese player Zhu Yuling added yet another win to the collection (11-5, 11-7, 11-7), with the only small blip coming in the second game when the the 23-year-old received a yellow card from the umpire.
“Today, this kind of match is very important for us and we hope we can continue to improve with every match. Also we must respect the Chinese players, they are very strong and we must acknowledge this as well.” Kasumi Ishikawa [Japan]
Mima Ito’s task in the third fixture was to keep Japan in the match and while the teenage star has made leaps and bounds in her game over the past few years she proved unable to put a dent in China’s title ambitions as World and Olympic champion Ding Ning raced to a straight games win (11-7, 11-9, 11-8) to bring the tie to its conclusion.
“I am very happy to have won all my matches here; thanks to the fans for the support. Last year I took a break, I don’t think I’m full back 100 per cent but I’m on the road. Mima Ito is young and she fights hard. I will keep trying my best, I hope I’ll be in Tokyo for the 2020 Olympic Games.” Ding Ning [China]
Success in London means that China has now won 10 Women’s Team titles at the ITTF Team World Cup and remains unbeaten in the category since the 1994 edition of the tournament held in Nîmes.
The Men’s Team final also produced scenes of celebration for Team China as the top seeds saw off a brave attempt from Japan to lift the trophy for the ninth occasion.
Ma Long and Xu Xin were the players selected to represent China in the opening contest and despite an honourable display from Japan’s Koki Niwa and Jin Ueda it was the defending champions who established the early advantage in the match (11-8, 11-9, 11-7).
Then came what was expected to be the standout tie of the day as Fan Zhendong and Tomokazu Harimoto met face-to-face. However, in the end the opening singles fixture turned out to be somewhat of a one-sided result with a precise performance handing Fan Zhendong a comfortable 3-0 win over Tomokazu Harimoto (11-8, 11-9, 11-7), but there were glimpses of greatness throughout the tie from the 14-year-old whose best table tennis still lies ahead.
“It is the first time that I have played Tomokazu, I prepared thoroughly and focused on just playing one point at a time. Before every match, in the Chinese team we always prepare and study videos.” Fan Zhendong [China]
The only disappointment for the Chinese line-up came in the third fixture of the final as Japan’s Koki Niwa waltzed past Ma Long in game two of their encounter, but the latter player eventually completed the job across four games (11-8, 3-11, 11-5, 11-3).
“It is quite normal to lose a game, in the second game Koki Niwa played very well; I kept my focus and came through; now I need to get some sleep, last night in the hotel there was a fire alarm. Now I look forward to the next big match.” Ma Long [China]