by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Manager
Just as some three months ago, when she met Honoka Hashimoto’s compatriot, Hitomi Sato at the quarter-final stage of the Women’s Singles event at the Seamaster 2018 ITTF World Tour Qatar Open, she lost the opening game and then won the next four.
In the Gulf State, Liu Shiwen had dominated matters against Hitomi Sato as she found a rhythm to her play (10-12, 11-5, 11-2, 11-5, 11-5); in south east Asia it was somewhat different. The willingness of Honoka Hashimoto to seize the opportunity to attack whenever the chance arose posed problems.
However, at the key stages Liu Shiwen showed her class, she won the crucial points.
Matters level, in the third game Honoka Hashimoto led 7-4; Liu Shiwen responded, she pressed the accelerator and increased the speed of the play. The opportunities for Honoka Hashimoto to attack were minimalised. Liu Shiwen won the next five points, she lost the next but no more; a two games to one advantage was established.
Again in the fourth game when crisis loomed, Liu Shiwen remained safe and secure; the outstanding technique never wavered. Level at 10-all, she saved game points on two occasions before when the chance arose seizing the opportunity.
A two game cushion but one had to admire the tenacity of Honoka Hashimoto; in the fifth game she established an 8-4 lead, Liu Shiwen won the next two points, Honoka Hashimoto called “Time Out”, a quite reasonable decision but to no avail. Perhaps Liu Shiwen rushed a little as her adversary moved to 9-6 and 10-8 ahead but, as earlier in the match when crisis loomed, Liu Shiwen responded, four points in a row, the title secured.
“This is the first time I’ve had the chance to play in a shopping mall like this! The fans and the atmosphere here was excellent. I’m very happy to be here.” Liu Shiwen
Why was Liu Shiwen able to respond in the heat of battle when defeat loomed, only the second game could be considered comfortable. The answer is simple, when she was a little girl in Liaoning province and then later in the city of Guangzhou, she was taught sound basic skills, no shortcuts; now she reaps the dividends, in moments of crisis the technique stands secure.
Defeat for Honoka Hashimoto and déjà vu, last year she was beaten in the final by Hitomi Sato.
Meanwhile if we combine the ITTF World Tour and ITTF Challenge Series, for Liu Shiwen it was her 13th win in 27 Women’s Singles finals.