by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Absent from the international scene for most of the second half of last year, on the February 2018 World Ranking list, used to determine seeding in Doha, the name of China’s Ding Ning appears at no.21.
It means the current Olympic and World champion, the player who has won every conceivable major honour the sport has to offer, must compete in the qualification tournament.
The same scenario applies to her compatriot, Liu Shiwen, four times winner of the Women’s World Cup and twice the Women’s Singles World Championships silver medallist; she was listed at no.23 on the February Women’s World Rankings.
In the group stage, Ding Ning faces Japan’s Miyuu Kihara and Thailand’s Tamolwan Khetkhuan; Liu Shiwen opposes colleague Wu Yang and Singapore’s Lin Ye. Notably in 2013 in Kobe, Liu Shiwen beat Wu Yang in the final of the Starts Women’s World Cup! Such is the quality of the qualification tournament.
Can both advance to the final? Such a situation depends on the draw but if such a scenario accrues it will not be the first time they have appeared in a Doha Women’s Singles final. In 2011 and in 2016 Liu Shiwen beat Ding Ning in the title decider; sandwiched in between in 2013, Ding Ning had reversed the decision.
Former Women’s Singles finalists in Doha who must qualify for the main event; they are not alone.
Likewise both China’s Hu Limei and Austria’s Liu Jia, the players who contested the 2014 final, must compete in the qualification tournament as must Romania’s Elizabeta Samara and Germany’s Han Ying who determined the 2015 final.
An intriguing Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open awaits; equally fascinating is the qualification tournament!