by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Required to compete in the qualification tournament, the 17 year old caused the biggest shock of the day and arguably the biggest of the tournament; at the quarter-final stage of the Women’s Singles event she beat Japan’s Hitomi Sato, the no.2 seed and defending champion.
Furthermore, she succeeded without the need for a deciding seventh game; a six game verdict was the outcome (15-13, 11-8, 10-12, 11-9, 6-11, 11-3).
“My opponent was very strong and this is my first time playing a defender in an international tournament. However, in my training and in domestic tournaments I’ve had good results against defenders so I felt confident going into this match.” Zuo Yue
Defeat for Hitomi Sato but not for the remaining highly rated contingent; colleagues Honoka Hashimoto and Saki Shibata both emerged successful as did Zuo Yue’s esteemed compatriot, Liu Shiwen.
Honoka Hashimoto, beaten in the 2017 final by Hitomi Sato, prevailed in the battle of the defenders, she accounted for Korean qualifier, Kim Danbi (11-8, 14-12, 11-5, 11-5); Saki Shibata, the no.4 seed, emerged successful against colleague, Mizuki Morizono, the no.13 seed (11-8, 11-7, 11-8, 3-11, 11-4).
Impressive performances, it was the same from Liu Shiwen and the end of the road for Thailand; the top seed, she accounted for Suthasini Sawettabut, the no.8 seed (10-12, 11-7, 11-8, 11-7, 11-8).
Now what are the chances of an all Chinese final?
At the semi-final stage Liu Shiwen starts the clear favourite against the spirited Saki Shibata. Now despite the seeding are the odds in favour of Zuo Yue?
She has beaten Hitomi Sato, the highest rated defensive player on the current world rankings, now another of that style awaits, Honoka Hashimoto.
Furthermore, despite a lack of experience Zuo Yue seems to have adjusted to the international stage rather well; in fact reaching the final is the norm, not the exception! Remember Spain!