by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
The players in question were China’s Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen, the two ladies who for the majority of the past three years and more have shared top spot on the Women’s World Rankings.
However, international inactivity in the past six months, combined with a new method of assessing ranking, has meant they have dropped down the list and must compete in the preliminary stages.
Furthermore, in their initial phase concluding matches, both were tested. Ding Ning needed five games to beat Japan’s Miyuu Kihara (12-14, 11-8, 11-4, 11-9, 13-11), by a similar margin, Liu Shiwen accounted for Singapore’s Lin Ye (8-11, 11-6, 12-10, 14-12, 11-9).
One could only admire Miyuu Kihara, we hear a great deal about her compatriot, Tomokazu Harimoto but Miyuu Kihara is a year younger! She is only 13 years old.
Against Ding Ning she played more like a 23 year old; in the fourth game she led 9-7 before the reigning Olympic and World champion recovered, Miyuu Kihara electing for “Time Out” at 9-all. In the fifth game, she challenged again, Ding Ning forced to take a “Time Out” when ahead 10-9.
“I think it must be ten years since I’ve had to play in a qualification event; it is such a new situation for me. It’s difficult to focus, difficult to motivate yourself. Miyuu played very well; it’s good for the sport that we have such good young players emerging. She opened up well, good at playing the first attack. Today if I compare by level with last year at the World Championships, I would say it’s just over 50 per cent.” Ding Ning
Food for thought for Ding Ning; it was the same for Liu Shiwen against an adversary far more experienced than Miyuu Kihara. Lin Ye is 22 years old.
“The quality in the qualification tournament is very good; I think stronger than normal. My first goal here was to win the group but it’s not been easy. I have really found it difficult to keep my concentration. Against Lin Ye I made many easy mistakes; it was difficult to find a rhythm to my play.” Liu Shiwen
Nevertheless, it was success; the result states first place in the group; a position to which neither is a stranger.