by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Having in 2015 in the Indian city of Jaipur finished in third place behind colleague, Liu Shiwen and Singapore’s Feng Tianwei; Zhu Yuling emerged victorious last September when she succeeded in Ahmedabad. Notably, as one month later in Canada, she beat Liu Shiwen in the title deciding contest.
Now in 2018, there is no Liu Shiwen in the competition, the further Chinese selection is Cheng Meng, the young lady who on the recently published Women’s World Rankings for April replaced Zhu Yuling in top spot. She makes her debut in the Asian Cup.
Equally, there is no Feng Tianwei, the player who in Jaipur caused an upset of note when she beat Zhu Yuling in the group phase of proceedings and thus, in effect, prevented the possibility of an all-Chinese final. Later she accounted for Liu Shiwen in the title decider to seal the title for her one and only time in her career. Similar to colleague, Yu Mengyu, who won bronze in 2014 in Wuhan, she is on duty at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games on the far-east coast of Australia.
The top two places occupied by China, the main challenge for honours comes from the three players the next in line; the Japanese duo of Kasumi Ishikawa and Miu Hirano alongside Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching.
Notably all three have been medallists at the Women’s World Cup. Sensationally, Miu Hirano won in Philadelphia in 2016 when she beat Cheng I-Ching in the final, before last year in Markham, Cheng I-Ching reversed the verdict in the bronze medal match. Meanwhile, Kasumi Ishikawa was the bronze medallist in Linz and in 2015 in Sendai.
Furthermore, other than Zhu Yuling, she is the only player on duty in Yokohama to have gained a podium finish in the Women’s event at the Asian Cup. The efforts of Miu Hirano winning the Women’s World Cup when only 16 years old in Philadelphia stand out in the mind but equally inspring was the performance of Kasumi Ishikawa on her Asian Cup debut. She won the bronze medal in 2007 in Hanoi, at the time she was only 14 years old!
Later she was also a bronze medallist in 2013 in Hong Kong and last year in Ahmedabad, ten years after her Hanoi success.
Additionally, Kaumi Ishikawa is very much the player in form; last momth she won the Women’s Singles title at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour German Open, the player she beat in the final, Korea’s Suh Hyowon.
In Yokohama, Suh Hyowon is the no.6 seed one place behind Cheng I-Ching; Chinese Taipei’s Cheng I-Ching and Hong Kong’s Lee Ho Ching complete the top eight names.