by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
World champions, Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen gave China the ideal start by beating Hina Hayata and Mima Ito, the recently crowned Japanese national champions. They won in four games (11-7, 11-6, 6-11, 11-8).
Time and again we have seen Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen steamroller opponents; that was not the situation when facing Hina Hayata and Mima Ito. In the first game, the Japanese duo led 6-5, they had a chance but could not force home the advantage; in the third they were dominant.
Meanwhile, in the fourth game they maintained the pressure, they never relented in their efforts. After Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen had surrendered two game points, discretion the better part of valour, at 10-6, Li Sun called “Time Out”. The crowd animated, Hina Hayata and Mima Ito saved one further match point but could not make it four in a row. It was advantage China.
“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
“Of course we want to win the tournament and we are confident that we can do just that.” Ding Ning
A good start, immediately Zhu Yuling, the model of consistency doubled the lead by beating Kasumi Ishikawa in three straight games (11-5, 11-7, 11-7) a contest in which the control exerted was the telling factor. Also she entered the fray with two major advantages against her name. The team was leading and in eight previous international meetings against Kasumi Ishikawa, she had won seven times. However, in the second game she did incur the wrath of the umpire and received a yellow card.
“Maybe I am a bit too careful when I’m preparing to serve; that’s why I was given the yellow card. I am very happy that we won this tournament but I must admit that it was very difficult compared to the result. In difficult matches like this, we have good attitude and ways to overcome most of difficulties.” Zhu Yuling
China two matches to nil ahead, Ding Ning and Mima Ito returned to the arena, the latter very much a player in form having in January won the Women’s Singles title at the Japanese National Championships; however, she faced the player who has won everything.
Furthermore, Ding Ning was well aware that there was no room for complacency; it was a determined Olympic and World champion who entered the arena. The first game captured, the second proved crucial, matters being level at 8-all, before Ding Ning won three of the next four points.
A brave effort from Mima Ito, one had to admire the fighting spirit; however, Ding Ning, as in the previous games, was able to withstand the barrage of Mima Ito’s fast close to the table attacking play. The third game was secured, victory for Ding Ning (11-7, 11-9, 11-8), the title won on nine previous occasions, including the most recent meeting three years ago in Dubai, was retained.
“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
Success for China and success for three players who maintained their unbeaten record in the competition; in fact the last time that China lost a match in the Women’s event at the ITTF Team World Cup was in 1994 in Nîmes when the trio comprising Wang Chen, Wu Na and Zhang Ling experienced defeat at the hands of Germany’s Elke Schall, Jie Schöpp and Nicole Struse.
Prior to the start of play in the Copper Box arena, Ding Ning was the most successful female player of all time; that record is now extended. It was her sixth time as a member of the winning team, her fourth appearance in the final; as for Liu Shiwen it was her fifth venture but only the second time she had been on duty in the title decider.
Like Zhu Yuling, for whom it was her second excursion, she had played in the 2015 in Dubai.